A small crowd of about 20 residents gathered at Allen East Schools on Monday night to learn more about the wind turbine project that is proposed for the district’s property. Superintendent Michael Richards explained that the school has entered into a tentative agreement with NexGen Energy, a company headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. If approved by the Board of Education, this 10-year agreement will allow NexGen to build a wind turbine on school property, and in return, the turbine will provide up to 66 percent of the school’s energy needs.
Charles Newcomb with NexGen explained that his company would be the developer, owner and operator of the turbine. He assured the crowd that AE would only have to pay out $10,000 as a deposit, and NexGen will bear the remaining costs for the construction and maintenance of the turbine. Newcomb said the total project cost will be around one million dollars, most of which NexGen will try to recoup through tax credits and grants.
After an initial evaluation of the school’s energy usage, NexGen believes that one 600 kilowatt (kW) wind turbine would provide the school with 1,300,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, or two-thirds of the school’s consumption. The turbine’s tower would be approximately 217 feet tall, with additional height for the blades.
While in operation, the wind turbine will undoubtedly produce more energy than what can be used by the school. That excess energy will be put back onto the power grid, which AEP will keep track of.
Residents did not question the safety of the turbine, nor the sound factor, nor the impact on wildlife. They were most concerned with the cost to the school, and the savings to the school. With the costs explained at a mere $10,000, focus turned to the savings. Treasurer Rhonda Zimmerly noted that Allen East currently spends around $190,000 per year on electricity. With the wind turbine and NexGen, there are two options available when it comes to electricity costs to AEP: 1) the school will agree to pay a flat rate that will be guaranteed for 10 years (with minimal annual increases). This rate will begin at a level lower than what AEP charges now, but could fluctuate as time goes on. Option 2) the school could agree to pay a set percentage lower that AEP’s rate. This option would guarantee that the school would be saving money.
“We’re trying to maintain that cost ($190,000/year) going forward,” said Zimmerly.
Residents also questioned whether or not Allen East had contacted NexGen or the other way around. Superintendent Richards said that some other companies had contacted him about wind turbines, and after reviewing their references, he decided against working with them. He then contacted NexGen, saying that they had a good track record of working in the area with USV, Ohio Northern and Ada. He also signed the letter of intent knowing that there was an opt-out clause for the district. “We can kill the project,” he noted.
If the Board of Education approves the project at the October 19 meeting, then Newcomb said construction would progress quickly. The site analysis is complete, the FAA has signed off, and the USDA support has been granted. Being mindful of setbacks, and fish and wildlife recommendations, the Board of Education would choose a location, and then soil borings would be taken, and the foundation designed. After the final agreement is signed and the building permits are approved, NexGen would ask AEP for interconnection approval and install the turbine. If all goes according to plan, the turbine could be erected and functioning by spring of 2011.
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