The winds of change could soon blow through Mishawaka after plans to build a series of power generating wind turbines for the city’s schools take another step forward.
School board members got their first look at a plan to build a series of massive wind turbines to help generate electricity for schools across the district. The board has been studying this idea for more than a year, and Tuesday night they got their first look at the data from that study.
“You could offset that electrical use without much problem using wind power,” Alternate Energy Solutions President John Wolar told the board. “Completely.”
Michigan based Alternate Energy Solutions was hired to study the viability of wind energy more than a year ago. Using 373 days worth of data collected from a $10,000 150-foot test tower built just north of Ireland Road on Ireland Trail, Wolar calculated that 20-25 percent of the wind blowing through southern Mishawaka can be harvested, by building a 250 to 300 foot wind turbine that would generate up to two megawatts of energy.
That’s about 1/5 of the total energy the school corporation uses in a year. By putting up four more turbines, the school corporation could actually put energy back into the power grid, and sell it to utility companies.
But school officials would have to decide exactly where the turbines would be built, and so far, they haven’t commented on what sites they’re considering, saying only that there are two of them, both on the city’s south side.
“At this point, we’d prefer not to disclose those,” School City of Mishawaka Business Manager Randy Squadroni told WSBT. “You will see a lot of electrical towers and possibly water towers, things of that nature, where they have a lot of these types of structures already in place. So this would not be real obstructive to the area.”
But the lack of answers on the proposed sites has some living near the test tower a little worried.
“I don’t know why they’re so secretive about it,” said Pat Nash, who owns a home on the city’s southern border, just north of the Bypass. “Obviously, it’s just like a TV tower or a cell phone tower. We’re not against alternative energy, but no one would want that in their backyard.”
Nash says he believes many of his neighbors feel the same way, but school officials say it’s far too soon to even talk about a final site.
And when it is time to decide?
“We will be open to people coming in to discuss their concerns, be it environmental, property, whatever the case may be,” said School Board President Larry Stillson.
Stillson called the results of the first feasibility study “very encouraging,” and says he hopes the winds of change will blow through Mishawaka soon.
Right now, Squadroni estimates the earliest the wind turbines could be up and running is March of 2009. But before that happens, the school corporation will do another study, this time for six months, on things like cost, historical wind data, and the impact on birds, bats and people.
School City of Mishawaka pays about $500,000 a year for electricity now, and they’re confident the corporation wouldn’t have to raise taxes to pay for the turbines. Instead, trustees could seek a bond issue, and pay the turbines off within 12 years.
Wolar says the life span of a wind turbine is more than double that, so while the turbines would mean an additional cost initially, they would bring major savings down the road.
By Troy Kehoe
11 December 2007
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