Alternative Energy: Lesson Plan

Learn about nonrenewable and renewable energy sources currently available in North Carolina, and then find out how scientists in the state are testing strategies for harvesting renewable energy from the Atlantic Ocean.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • EEn.2.8.1 — Evaluate alternative energy technologies for use in North Carolina.

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

At the end of this lesson students will be able to:

  • Compare alternative energy sources to traditional energy sources.
  • Evaluate alternative energy options available from NC coastal resources.

Essential Questions

  1. What sources of energy are nonrenewable?
  2. What sources of energy are renewable?
  3. On which sources of energy does North Carolina most depend?
  4. What kinds of energy does North Carolina produce?
  5. How can our coastal resources provide energy?
  6. How do coastal wind and wave energy options compare to traditional energy sources for use in North Carolina?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Renewable
  • Nonrenewable
  • Hydrokinetic energy
  • Efficiency
  • Turbine
  • Environmental impact


Students will play the EPA Generate Game. This game serves as a dynamic platform for teaching students about the considerations involved in deciding what type of energy generation to build, as well as the costs (financial and otherwise) involved in providing electricity.


Students will gather information about North Carolina’s current consumption and production of energy at the following websites:

U.S. States: North Carolina — EIA

North Carolina: An Energy and Economic Analysis —

Renewable Energy in North Carolina —


Students will view the NC Science Now videos “Ocean Energy” and “Seeking Sea Power” and answer the questions on the attached PDF. They can then discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.


Students will create a model wind turbine.


Students will prepare for and participate in a debate concerning placement of wind and/or wave turbines in waters offshore from the NC coast. Using information gathered throughout the lesson and additional research, half of the class will prepare to debate the “For” side and half will prepare to debate the “Against” side. Students must choose one of the following roles:

  • Graphic designer: These students will select and prepare graphics to be used as visual aids during the debate.
  • Researcher: These students will conduct additional research into the topic. Students can perform independent research or be provided links such as the ones listed below under Additional Resources.
  • Writer: These students will prepare the main points to be presented during the debate. 

Additional Resources:

Wind Energy Development —

Renewable Energy —

North Carolina Wind Energy — Appalachian State University

Turning Point — National Wildlife Foundation

Ocean Energy Making Waves —