Dodge City Community College could have the chance to decrease its electricity bill and utilize alternative energy, thanks to a last-minute change on the Senate floor to House Bill 2145.
In May, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius put her signature to HB 2145, which allows Dodge City Community College and Cloud County Community College to install 1.5-megawatt renewable generators.
Oddly enough, it was Dodge City High School, not the community college, that was lobbying for the opportunity to install a wind turbine.
Three years ago, the high school began researching the possibility of using alternative energy sources to power the large building. The building uses approximately 1,200 kilowatts a month during peak loads, and the cost of keeping the lights on is an incredible drain on the district’s funds, said Morris Reeves, who serves as the energy manager for USD 443.
The Board of Education authorized the Advanced Manufacturing Institute of Kansas State University to perform a feasibility study, Reeves said.
The study, which was finished in June 2005, concluded that not only would the project be viable, there was the possibility of receiving revenue from the sale of any excess energy.
“Then about a year ago, the school district contracted with Chevron Energy Solutions,” Reeves said. “They were going to do an energy conservation project with us, and part of that would be a wind turbine.”
In the meantime, Reeves contacted Kansas Rep. Mitch Holmes, who was chairman of the House Utilities Committee at the time. He explained the project and asked that an amendment be made to HB 2145 that would authorize a wind turbine for the high school. Copies of the letter were also sent to lawmakers from the Dodge City area, including Rep. Melvin Neufeld, Rep. Pat George and Sen. Tim Huelskamp.
Reeves received no response to the letter.
“Then one day, that bill was before the Senate,” said Reeves. “And Senator Huelskamp, knowing that Dodge City was here between two big wind farms and that at least there was an interest in a wind turbine, he requested and got the Senate to amend the bill to allow Dodge City Community College to have the authority to operate a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine and require the utility to purchase the excess power.”
Dodge City High School would still be allowed to install a wind turbine, but only as a commercial customer relegated to a renewable generator with a capacity of 200 kilowatts, not nearly enough energy to cover the building’s needs.
“As far as the school district is concerned, we’re just kind of waiting and seeing right now,” said Reeves. “But it doesn’t look good right now because of the 200-kilowatt limitation.”
Meanwhile, Barney Korbelik, physical plant director for DCCC, said there hasn’t been any real discussion of installing a wind turbine at the college.
“However,” he added, “that doesn’t mean there won’t be any discussion in the future.”
Should the college decide to take the next step, it would have to conduct its own feasibility study to decide whether a turbine would be appropriate for the site.
Under the provisions of the law, the Kansas Development Finance Authority would be able to issue revenue bonds to cover the full cost of construction and installation, as well as any interest accrued from those costs. The bonds would then be paid off through any revenue received from the sale of excess energy.
By Ashley Nietfeld
7 September 2007
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