Big Questions From Curious Kids

Natasha Oldfield

July 14, 2022

Why are wind turbines white? Why do they have three blades? And how many wind turbines are there in Québec?

A group of grade 5 students from École d’Youville-Lambert in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, Québec, recently asked these questions and more.

A group of grade 5 students from École d’Youville-Lambert visited Mont Sainte Marguerite in June, 2022.

Marc-Antoine Landry, assistant facility manager at Mont Sainte Marguerite Wind says they invited the students to the site to learn more about the wind turbines—something they couldn’t do earlier this year because of the pandemic.

“The students already had lots of interesting questions about turbines, so we arranged a visit with the school so they could come to see them. We paid for the transportation, provided some snacks, and gave them a 3D model of a turbine,” he explains.

Each student received a 3D model of a turbine and an activity book from Pattern Canada.

Tons of Questions

While there, the students had the chance to check out the inner workings of a wind turbine.

“We did a quick visit of a turbine from the outside, so I just opened the door and showed them a bit inside, and that was a cool experience for them,” Marc-Antoine says.

One student asked, “Why do wind turbines have three blades?”

“It’s easier to balance three blades on a wind turbine, rather than two or four,” Marc-Antoine explains.

Another student asked, “Why are wind turbines white?”

“White reflects sunlight. It’s the only colour that can reflect light. So if you have a black or green turbine, the sunlight will deteriorate some of the materials. Darker colours also heat up more, causing more problems,” says Marc-Antoine.

Students getting a tour of the Operations building.

Lots to Learn

As the day went on, the questions kept coming.

“Some asked how many turbines there are in the province of Québec. I was prepared with a presentation, so I had that number ready. There are around 1,985 turbines province-wide,” he says.

What about the height of a wind turbine? Are they all the same height?

“No, it depends on the manufacturer and the turbine we’re using. In the past, I worked on an 80-metre turbine. Here it’s 92.5 metres. Sometimes you can see 100-metre turbines as well,” says Marc-Antoine.

He goes on to explain the kids’ curiosity about electricity generation.

“One turbine here can power about 625 houses per year. We have 46 of them. For us, we can provide electricity for about 28,000 houses every year,” he says. “Concerning their weight: about 290 tons each! I compared it to an elephant – one elephant weighs one ton, so each turbine is like 290 elephants in weight.”

Students learning about how the turbines are monitored.

Becoming an Annual Tradition

After spending the day on-site and learning about how a wind farm operates, Marc-Antoine says the teachers are looking forward to bringing grade 5 and 6 students back next year.

“At that age, they are learning about science in school. But at the back of the school, they can see about 20 wind turbines, so the wind industry is in their backyard. It’s cool for us to invite them to learn more about us and ask questions that we may not have thought much about,” he explains.

Students checking out the tools and equipment.