Wind turbines whip up concerns from regents
Credit: By Candace Carlisle / Staff Writer, Denton Record-Chronicle, www.dentonrc.com 20 August 2010 ~~
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FORT WORTH – Wind turbines could possibly be placed on the University of North Texas campus, according to university officials at the regents’ quarterly board meeting Thursday.
A feasibility study is being conducted on placing three wind turbines next to the new football stadium, which is being constructed near Bonnie Brae Street, or somewhere else on campus.
The study would measure the possible effects on water, air quality and soil, among other environmental effects, and is being funded by a $200,000 grant awarded in mid-June by the Texas Comptroller’s State Energy Conservation Office, said Todd Spinks, director of the UNT Office of Sustainability.
The turbines, which are about 125 feet tall with a blade length of 30 feet, could be paid for by an additional $1.8 million grant from the state’s conservation office, he said.
But that grant won’t be awarded until after the feasibility study is completed and state officials view the results, he said.
“Right now, we’re primarily in the development stage and we are conducting a feasibility study to determine the impact [of the turbines],” Spinks said. “This was an opportunity for us to bring this to the board’s attention … to begin the dialogue.”
The turbines could provide 80 percent to 85 percent of the new stadium’s power needs and save an estimated $100,000 a year in electricity, he said.
While the idea could make environmental and fiscal sense, several regents voiced concerns about some negative effects the wind turbines could have, including the possibility of noise interfering with athletic programs, the aesthetics of the turbines and the effects on the nearby neighborhood.
Regent Brint Ryan, a UNT alumnus, said he’s excited about renewable energy, but not excited about the aesthetics of wind turbines. He said he couldn’t picture wind turbines on the UNT campus anytime soon.
C. Dan Smith, chairman of the board, said he thought wind turbines could be a good idea, but he’d like more information from the completed study.
He added that he’d like to see the study focus on possible locations at UNT other than near the stadium, which already has several facilities in operation.
“We might have other locations, such as the research park, which would tie into the research school,” Smith said. “I think the research park would make more sense, but I’d need more facts.”
UNT officials said they’d be meeting with residents of nearby neighborhoods to discuss the possibility of wind turbines on campus, but no dates on those meetings were given.
Also approved during the meeting were several facility-related projects, including increasing the budget for the park’s clean room from $3 million to $4 million to add 1,200 square feet of space to the laboratory.
Vish Prasad, vice president for research and economic development, said the additional investment will help the research park attract private companies to use the university’s research space.
“Now Discovery Park becomes a real discovery park, with more economic development – that is the key,” Prasad said.
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