Spearfish School Board members are facing the question of whether they are in located in the right place at the right time. Though in the very early stages of discussion, this district may be the future site of wind turbines.
Because of where the Spearfish School District is located, they were one of several districts requested to discuss the possibilities of engaging in a program that will promote wind energy discussions and act as an educational tool. Superintendent Dave Peters received a letter from the Public Utilities Commission last week requesting that he consider implementing the Wind for Schools program and informed the board Monday during its regular meeting.
“We’re one of the ones that they think would be a good candidate, probably because we know the wind really blows here,” Peters said.
Because wind energy is one of the most steadily and rapidly expanding industries in the U.S., South Dakota is promoting the idea to a dozen communities. The main driver of this program is to educate students and other residents in the community about renewable energy. Acting not only as a wind turbine, but an educational facility as well, this would allow people to engage in real-world experience in a dynamic and promising industry by providing several educational opportunities using state-of-the-art technology.
Wind for Schools launched in 2005 when a pilot project was conducted in Colorado. Peters said that because of the success in Colorado, utilities commissions throughout the region are proposing other districts adopt Wind for Schools. The program’s primary goals will be to engage rural school teachers and students in wind energy education, equip college students in wind energy applications and education to provide the growing wind industry with interested and equipped engineers.
According to information provided by the Wind for Schools program, implementing a wind project at a public school is a fairly complex undertaking that will involve many stakeholders. Those include the local school, the Wind Application Center developed at South Dakota State University and the Public Utilities Commission. The school would own the wind turbine, the Wind Application Center would provide technical expertise such as installation and monitoring and the Public Utilities Commission would work as a facilitator in the first few years in order to assist in the development of the program.
One vital consideration for everyone is that in order for the Spearfish School District to be involved in the Wind for Schools program, every administrator, the faculty and staff and the school board would need to agree unanimously to fully support the program.
“It seems they are interested in us, but are we interested in them and at this point that is the question here,” Peters said.
Other considerations for the board will be exactly where the turbine would be located, estimating and figuring the fall zone and whether this decision could cause any future issues.
The Public Utilities Commission is recommending incorporating a single 70-foot tall SkyStream 1.8 kW wind turbine. If the district decides to apply to be a host school, the wind turbine will be installed on district property and connected to the school’s electrical system and its facilities. Its total cost would be approximately $7,000, which will not include the turbine hardware and the host school would be expected to pitch in $3,500, while the other stakeholders will foot the bill for the rest.
Peters said that he attended a Spearfish Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week and informed the body and city staff of the letter he had received. He referred to the growing interest of wind energy in Lawrence County and discussed the possibility of this becoming a reality.
Ending the discussion, Peters told board members that he is hesitant at this time to make any recommendation to the board for approval or disapproval because he didn’t feel like he had enough information. He also noted that the board had up until Jan. 29 to make the decision to apply for the program or not and believes that the timeframe is a little too tight for the way the bureaucratic system works within the school district.
“This really doesn’t give us the time to discuss this and we don’t meet again until next month,” Peters said. “We work very slow.”
School Board member Terry Steen recommended they take a chance and delay making any decision on the wind turbine project until a later date. “If they are willing to offer this to us now, they will offer it again,” he said.
School Board President Randall Royer agreed and said that it sounded very interesting and he would like to pursue it, “but I think we need more information.”
The board agreed to postpone any decision and have Peters contact the Public Utilities Commission to see if they can’t extend the application deadline.
By Heather Ziegenbein
15 January 2008
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