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Wind in district forecast?

The School District of Monroe could soon be generating its own energy.

The Board of Education Finance Committee last night approved a study, which would determine the feasibility of erecting a wind turbine on district property to generate energy the district can use to power its facilities.

Last spring, former Monroe alderman Dr. John Frantz and his wife, Board of Education member Dr. Mary Frantz, donated $50,000 to the district to be used toward establishing a wind turbine.

Tom Rufenacht, director of building and grounds, had a wind energy site assessment done shortly thereafter. At a cost of $300, ALT Energy studied two possible sites for a wind turbine: near Northside Elementary School and near Abraham Lincoln Elementary School/Monroe High School, just south of the football field.

The assessment concluded that “Abraham Lincoln Elementary School is a good location for a wind system.”

Rufenacht said he has been searching for grants available that could be used for the project. Two possibilities he mentioned at the Nov. 27 Finance Committee meeting include a $65,000 Focus on Energy grant and a $105,000 WE Energies grant.

Rufenacht also told the Finance Committee at its Nov. 27 meeting about his recent visit to Spirit Lake Community Schools in Iowa, which has used wind turbines to power their entire district since the early 1990s.

The feasibility study, to be done by Fehr-Graham & Associates of Monroe, will cost $2,000, Rufenacht said. The cost would come out of the money donated by the Frantzs.

The study, which will use the original wind assessment as a base, will identify which size and type of generator to use, financial feasibility, timing and site location.

Rufenacht added that the Frantzs have also said they would donate up to $500,000, interest-free, to be used for this project. The loan would be paid back using the savings generated by using the turbine.

By Kayla Bunge