The Erie wind turbine project has been a learning experience for both the school district and the builders.
The $3.5 million project, which is expected to save the district some $4 million in energy costs over the next 30 years, has met delay after delay. The most recent is with a nearby landowner who wants compensation for the use of his airspace.
Approved by the Erie School District in spring of 2006, the 1.2 megawatt tower was expected to be in place by the fall of last year. But delays occurred in getting the parts from east coast ports to the Midwest, Superintendent Mike Ryan had said.
When up and running, the school district will be the only one in the United States to have all its buildings – the high school, middle school, elementary school and annex – powered solely by wind energy.
The parts arrived in June, including the 200-foot turbine and 95-foot blades.
“The turbine will not infringe on the direct property,” Mr. Ryan explained of the current predicament.
Mr. Ryan said, though, a portion of the blades will go on the property owner’s airspace. The wind turbine is at the southwest corn of the middle school just south of the football field.
“With the blade length 95 feet, I think someone missed the calculations,” Mr. Ryan said. “When it turns toward the southwest direction, it goes over the property line at those two points.”
Johnson Controls, Moline, is overseeing the project for the district. It started on a joint venture with the Erie School District. Kari Pfisterer, a Johnson company spokesperson at its Milwaukee headquarters, said the property owner, Luke Besse, is looking to be fairly compensated.
“It’s called a good neighbor claim,” Ms. Pfisterer said. “It’s on hold. We want to get matters resolved quickly.”
Earlier this year, Mr. Ryan joked it has been a project of 1,000 steps. Now Mr. Ryan said the latest delay has been frustrating.
“It has been for me,” he said. “We had hoped to have it up and running by now. I think frustrating is fair to say for the school board and the district.”
Mr. Besse could not be reached for comment.
By Stephen Elliott
29 September 2007
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