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Area school superintendents told wind energy not for every school  

The best payoff for wind energy isn’t in putting up a bunch of turbines, generating way more power than you’ll ever use and selling juice back to the power company.

Rather, it’s in generating just a portion of your total power consumption, at least so long as power companies buy power at a fraction of what they charge for it.

That was the message a group of local school superintendents heard Wednesday morning from a Colorado-based wind energy company whose work with Kansas schools includes one turbine for the Quinter School District and three at Pratt Community College.

At a regular meeting of area superintendents sponsored by the Smoky Hill Education Service Center, John Brown, managing director of Entegrity Wind Systems, said schools – and businesses – should look at wind power “as an instrument to control a portion of your energy costs,” and not try to build enough capacity to become energy independent.

Brown explained that building enough generating capacity to run a school and selling back any excess power isn’t really viable in Kansas right now because of the low rates utilities pay for that power.

In contrast, he said, a school that buys one of his company’s 50 kilowatt turbines – enough to provide maybe 30 percent or 40 percent of a school’s power needs, depending on the school – could see that $200,000 cost paid for in about 10 years, depending on current electric rates.

He also said schools are an ideal candidate for wind power, as they are in session when wind tends to blow the most and out during the summer, when air is generally calmer.

Brown said that, right now, most school districts in central Kansas are right on the edge of making his company’s wind turbines economically viable, but that the numbers look better in western Kansas, where power rates are slightly higher.

His company has already studied the Southeast of Saline School District and has also been contacted by a district near Quinter that was interested in replicating what’s been done in Quinter, where power savings are estimated at $12,000 a year. In both cases, Brown said, Entegrity decided the combination of energy costs and available wind meant the projects wouldn’t be viable.

“The core business case has to work before you start thinking about the Birkenstock stuff,” he said, referring to the emotional pull of renewable energy.

In response to a question from Salina School Board member Gary Denning, Brown said that because of their turbines’ relatively small size – 50-foot rotors on 100-foot poles – issues such as building regulations are less of a problem than with larger structures, though some sort of special permit is generally required.

Joe Ryan, president of the Southeast of Saline School Board, asked about insurance costs, and Brown said those typically run $150 to $500 a year.

Rather, it’s in generating just a portion of your total power consumption, at least so long as power companies buy power at a fraction of what they charge for it.

That was the message a group of local school superintendents heard Wednesday morning from a Colorado-based wind energy company whose work with Kansas schools includes one turbine for the Quinter School District and three at Pratt Community College.

At a regular meeting of area superintendents sponsored by the Smoky Hill Education Service Center, John Brown, managing director of Entegrity Wind Systems, said schools – and businesses – should look at wind power “as an instrument to control a portion of your energy costs,” and not try to build enough capacity to become energy independent.

Brown explained that building enough generating capacity to run a school and selling back any excess power isn’t really viable in Kansas right now because of the low rates utilities pay for that power.

In contrast, he said, a school that buys one of his company’s 50 kilowatt turbines – enough to provide maybe 30 percent or 40 percent of a school’s power needs, depending on the school – could see that $200,000 cost paid for in about 10 years, depending on current electric rates.

He also said schools are an ideal candidate for wind power, as they are in session when wind tends to blow the most and out during the summer, when air is generally calmer.

Brown said that, right now, most school districts in central Kansas are right on the edge of making his company’s wind turbines economically viable, but that the numbers look better in western Kansas, where power rates are slightly higher.

His company has already studied the Southeast of Saline School District and has also been contacted by a district near Quinter that was interested in replicating what’s been done in Quinter, where power savings are estimated at $12,000 a year. In both cases, Brown said, Entegrity decided the combination of energy costs and available wind meant the projects wouldn’t be viable.

“The core business case has to work before you start thinking about the Birkenstock stuff,” he said, referring to the emotional pull of renewable energy.

In response to a question from Salina School Board member Gary Denning, Brown said that because of their turbines’ relatively small size – 50-foot rotors on 100-foot poles – issues such as building regulations are less of a problem than with larger structures, though some sort of special permit is generally required.

Joe Ryan, president of the Southeast of Saline School Board, asked about insurance costs, and Brown said those typically run $150 to $500 a year.

By Michael Strand

Salina Journal

21 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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