With architects, engineers, insurance executives, superintendents, energy experts and supporters all in attendance, Keeneyville School District 20 took another step toward building its wind turbine.
The Hanover Park village board voted unanimously Thursday to allow a 150-foot-tall meteorological testing tower to be built, the necessary precursor to the permanent structure.
But the wind turbine, which District 20 estimates would save $8 million over its predicted 30-year lifespan, is hardly a certainty.
A yearlong, $60,000 study – paid for by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation – must produce data that there’s significant wind energy available.
The study must also convince trustees that building a 300-foot, 100-ton wind turbine smack-dab in the middle of an urban setting is a good idea.
Some officials cautioned that will be difficult, but they’re willing to go along with the testing tower.
Now the big question is where to put it.
District officials always assumed it would go on school grounds at Greenbrook Elementary. But the village is uncomfortable with the residential setting, saying there’s not enough distance between the homes and the turbine should it fall over.
District director of operations Gary Ofisher and his staff turned their attention to nearby Evangel Assembly of God as a possible site. The church board approved selling land to the district, and instead of money, it wants in on the wind turbine’s electric grid. It’s a bargain for the district, which plans on the turbine creating an energy surplus.
Another possible site is an industrial area at Bartels Road and Central Avenue. Ofisher said the district got the OK from the two would-be impacted businesses, Camcraft Inc. and Lithonia Lighting.
But Greenbrook Elementary is still the front-runner. In addition to reaping the economic and environmental benefits, the district wants to incorporate the wind turbine into its curriculum.
Touching on those possibilities was Mike Ryan, superintendent of Erie Community Unit District 1 near the Quad Cities. His district’s first wind turbine is nearing completion.
“We’re enhancing our math and science curriculum and will have a live feed into classrooms for real-time data,” he said.
Ryan echoed safety as a non-issue. Not only is Erie’s school in a neighborhood, its activity fields are located within the wind turbine’s “fall zone.”
School board President Tim McHugh, who lives less than two blocks from Greenbrook Elementary, has been talking to his neighbors to get their take. The support has been mostly positive, he said.
“The $300,000 a year the district might potentially save could be turned around and put back into programs,” McHugh said. “It’s a win for the district, Hanover Park, the taxpayers and education.”
By Kimberly Pohl | Daily Herald Staff
2 November 2007
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