STUDENT POWER: 8th Grader Builds Wind Turbine

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The side of one Story City yard looks like it’s decorated with interesting yard art. But, the pieces are actually providing power to part of the family's home. The creator is still in middle school.

Tanner Johnson says, "Basically, this is the powerhouse of the whole turbine."

The Roland/Story City Middle School student started working on a wind turbine two years ago for his 6th grade science project. Now, it’s part of his 8th grade science project that he’ll use to compete in the State of Iowa Science Fair at the end of March.

He says he got the inspiration to work with renewable energy by watching crews put up a 900 kilowatt turbine, just north of his home. He says, "I spent the whole weekend just watching, my parents watching me run over with binoculars checking up north."

His dad, Jeff Johnson, says, "He's always been into taking apart things and seeing how things work."

Johnson says he isn't surprised his son is tackling renewable energy. In addition to the turbine, Tanner added solar panels to the family's home. Johnson says, "It's not too obtrusive. He wants to put the wind turbine on the roof. I'm not so sure about that."

Johnson says the wind turbine produces power for the family’s home. He says, "Right now, it's about 200 watts, but on a good windy day, I can get over 200." Johnson says it’s not a big amount, but it will cut about $200 off the family's energy bill in a year. He says it only cost $140 to build the turbine. He also created a converter to turn the turbine's energy into useful power inside the home.

He says, "My main goal would be to power most of the house with it."

For now, the middle school student will keep tinkering with his current turbine, along with everything else it takes to finish eighth grade.

The State of Iowa Science Fair is March 30th and 31st at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.