St. Peter schools are usually focused on the business of education.
But it looks like the district will be getting into a new business venture: wind energy.
Thursday, the St. Peter School District received approval for $3 million in no interest bonds – under the federal Clean Renewable Energy Act – to invest in a wind energy project organized by Johnson Controls Inc., the districts energy efficiency coordinator.
The hope is to gain an additional revenue stream and simultaneously promote clean and renewable energy, Supt. Jeff Olson said.
“We’re looking at options that make financial and educational sense,” Olson said. “This may very well offset our increased energy costs.”
According to conservative company projections, the St. Peter School District would net about $30,000 of profit per year from a wind turbine for 15 years. After that – once the bonds are paid off – it is estimated the district will rake in at least $125,000 per year.
While the district would ultimately have to pay the bonds back, Johnson will guarantee the turbine will generate plenty of cash before it begins construction.
If sketchings show it won’t generate enough money, then St. Peter owes nothing.
That would be the worst case scenario for Johnson, which would lose the money it invested in the extensive research it will now begin. The district has until Dec. 31, 2007 to accept the bonds, which gives Johnson a little more than a year to complete research.
Preliminary investigation shows the project will probably be located in the wind-rich southwestern part of the state, said Michael David, a consultant for Johnson.
“Now that (the bonds) have been approved, we can put the project back in motion and continue on the development,” he said. “We’ve been in discussion with a number of landowners, on a number of different sites. We will be narrowing that down and working on the turbine procurement.”
Besides St. Peter, 14 Minnesota school districts (including Faribault, New Prague and Northfield) have been approved to receive $2 to $3 million in bonds for turbines on the same farm.
The wind project has been on hiatus since July, when the IRS was supposed to announce recipients of federal Clean and Renewable Energy Bonds.
The agency ended up with more applications for the roughly $500 million worth of bonds than originally expected, David said.
“Which makes us even more excited that we got approved,” he said. “It shows that the project really has merit.”
By Nick Hanson
The Free Press
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