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Idea 12 What a lot of wind: Wind energy decision making assignment

What a lot of wind: Wind energy decision making assignment

This project idea was contributed by Noel Jenkins

Exam Board Components that this project links with
AQA A Unit 1, Section A: Challenge of weather and climate
Unit 2, Section A: Changing rural environments
AQA B Unit 4, Geographical Issue Investigation: Energy in the 21st Century
Edexcel A Unit 1, Section A: Geographical Skills
Unit 1, Section B: Challenges for the Planet
Unit 2, Section B: A Wasteful World
Edexcel B Unit 1, Section A: Climate and Change
Unit 2, Section A: Consuming Resources
OCR A Unit A672: You as a Global Citizen & the impact of our decisions
Unit A674: Issues in our fast changing world
OCR B Unit B561: Sustainable Decision Making
Unit B562: Geographical Enquiry, energy investigation
WJEC B Theme 2: People and the Natural World Interactions (Weather And Climate Influences)


Wind energy is a current, lively political issue and this topic is especially relevant in regions where there are plans for wind farms. Energy is an optional unit in the new OCR B specification. The idea of the lesson is for students to select a suitable site for a new wind farm. Imagery from Google Earth is combined with a number of other data sources to create a compelling decision-making exercise. The lesson can be tweaked in many different ways to meet the needs of different abilities. For example, more able students may choose to identify their own site, using the tools and techniques mentioned, rather than relying on the exemplars.

Supporting materials for this activity can be found at the Juicy Geography website.

Key Geography Objectives

  • Students will be able to describe the site factors required by a wind farm
  • Students can reach a decision on a suitable location for a wind farm, using information from a variety of sources.

Key ICT Objectives

  • Students can create an annotated placemark in Google Earth to describe a location
  • They can select and use data from a variety of online sources including a database, a GIS and an Ordnance Survey map.

Developing the Activity

Please note, this lesson makes use of a variety of ICT applications and will require some planning on the part of the teacher. It will also require some existing knowledge of Google Earth. Google themselves provide an official User Guide.

Students will need to be able to navigate through 3D terrain in Google Earth, and it may be necessary to adjust the elevation exaggeration. To do this go to the Preferences menu and change the setting from 1 to 2.

Before embarking on the lesson, teachers will need to create a site assessment index based on the criteria used by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). A sample index, that can be adapted as required, can be downloaded below. Note that it would be much better if students are involved in the creation of the index as the decision-making process will be considerably enhanced. More able students might even be challenged to create their own version.

Running the Activity

1. The lesson starts with students making a list of the features that make the existing Taff Ely wind farm a suitable wind energy location.

2. Introduce the four potential new wind farm sites in the Word Download below and briefly demonstrate how they can be visualized in Google Earth and Geograph. If Google Earth is unavailable, the exercise is still possible using Google Maps or another online mapping site.

3. Show students the Onshore Wind Planning page from the website of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). that outlines the factors that need to be considered when planning a wind farm. Create an index for choosing the most appropriate site from the four potential locations.

4. Students use the various ICT applications to select the best location. They could create placemarks in Google Earth to outline their decision. The placemarks can be saved to a shared folder and used as part of a class discussion or peer assessment. To do so, go to the Places panel of Google Earth, right click the placemark and choose ‘Save Place As’.

Site Assessment Index

Four Potential Wind Farm Sites

Websites you will need to use

The activity will require the use of a number of different websites that teachers may like to familiarise themselves with before the class.

  • To find out more about the Taff Ely wind farm, use the data on the Ventient energy website. There is a Google Earth file that will enable students to better visualise the site on the Juicy Geography page.
  • If you do not have it already, it is easy to download a free version of Google Earth. The measuring tools available on Google Earth will be useful to measure the distance from the proposed turbine site to the nearest dwellings.
  • Magic is the first web based interactive map to bring together geographic information on key environmental schemes and designations in one place. Students can use it to assess the impact of a particular wind farm site on birds. To do this, insert the 4-fig grid reference of each site and use the ‘Rural Designations Other’ map. A good tip is to click on List of Layers and remove the ticks from all the layers apart from Important Bird areas. Similarly, to assess the impact on ecology use the ‘Rural Designations Statutory’ map. Several layers indicate the ecological importance of the site. Once again, turn off the unnecessary layers in order to be able to interpret the map properly.
  • Finally, Geograph provides a photograph of each location and also links seamlessly with Google Earth.

Further Ideas

  • The Juicy Geography web page contains some suggestions for enhancing the outcome by creating a photomontage of the selected site.

Image Credit

The wind turbine image was used with kind permission of Flickr user emma76 and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 licence. You may reuse this image under the conditions specified in this licence.

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