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Board approves wind energy partnership

Officials behind a new initiative at Winona Area Public Schools hope to make the district more environmentally friendly – and make money, too.

The Winona public school board on Thursday night approved an agreement to buy and sell wind energy by building a renewable energy wind farm with 13 other Minnesota school districts. The school board agreed Thursday night to use $3 million in federal government bonds that the district will pay back over 15 years with money made from selling wind energy to a Minnesota utility. The district will not incur interest costs from the bonds.

Extra revenue brought in from the agreement will go to the school districts for their benefit, said Jeff Seeley, fiscal affairs director.

Seeley said he could not provide a specific amount the district would receive because they do not know how much wind energy they will sell. He said, however, they will make money from the project.

“It’s a great project for the district,” he said in an interview Thursday.

The agreement is between the school districts and Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based manufacturing company. Other school districts involved in the project include Faribault, Brainerd, Northfield and Zumbrota, among others.

The partnership is called a Joint Powers Agreement, which allows the districts to create a group of representatives from their schools. The group is called the Minnesota Schools Wind Energy Cooperative. On Thursday night, the board agreed to have Seeley and board member Kelly Herold represent the district.

The cooperative will meet Monday, March 5, in New Prague to elect board officers and approve costs related to the project, among other items. The group is expected to commit to a wind farm site by April, and install the turbines by 2008. They will likely build the wind farm in southwest Minnesota, Seeley said.

By Britt Johnsen
Winona Daily News


16 February 2007