SWANSEA – The school district isn’t expecting a windfall to cover energy costs at the high school. But it’s hopeful for a stiff breeze in the future.
Joseph Case High School might eventually be powered by a wind turbine, a proposal under consideration in Somerset, Westport and other places as a way to save money on school- and municipal-building energy.
Schools Supt. Stephan Flanagan said the district will apply by a May deadline for a $20,000 grant to do a feasibility study. The study, which would take several months, would answer questions such as whether there would be enough wind to make the turbine an alternative to electricity and natural gas. Others things the study would examine are size and location of a potential turbine.
“What we have in our budget for electricity and natural gas is a huge amount. At the high school, it’s around $100,000″ per year, said Flanagan. He added: “It’s a big building and we have done all the energy retrofitting we can do for efficiency.”
It’s not just for five school days per week. It’s weekdays that extend into evenings for after school and sports activities and it’s for community groups and others who use the school over the weekends.
On weekdays, “I would say that a lot of time it’s from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
Flanagan said the high school’s kilowatt-usage qualify it for grant consideration.
The grant is awarded by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which oversees a renewable energy fund. One of the collaborative’s efforts is the Green Schools Initiative, which provides school districts information on wind, solar and other alternative energy sources.
Flanagan said the feasibility study would take up to five months. How long it would take before Swansea would consider a wind turbine was not precise, but Somerset selectmen were told this month by a resident behind the initiative there that it could take years.
Flanagan said a wind turbine is in use at a vocational technical high school in Bourne, Mass., and that school is seeking a larger, second one. According to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Web site, the public high school in Beverly, Mass., has used a 10-kilowatt-capacity wind turbine since 1997.
In Rhode Island, Portsmouth has permission to borrow up to $2.6 million in clean-energy bonds to build one or two turbines at its middle and high schools. Barrington and Warren town councils are setting up wind-power study committees.
And Bristol voters, in a nonbinding November referendum, voted yes on whether the town should erect a wind turbine to reduce electricity use.
Governor Carcieri has spoken in support of having wind power accounting for more of the state’s energy supply. A report is being written on the best Rhode Island locations for harnessing wind.
Not that wind power has won plaudits everywhere. The Cape Wind proposal, which would put turbines in Nantucket Sound, has drawn a mix of support and opposition.
By Michael P. McKinney
Journal Staff Writer
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