The village of Coal City and Unit #1 School District have expressed interest in exploring the potential of wind energy to power a few of their facilities.
At this point, the proposal is just that, according to Village Administrator Matt Fritz, “It’s something for us to look into, we’re open to the idea of renewable energy.”
The proposal emerged last month when the governmental entities were approached by American Cast Stone owner Doug Robertson and Kirk Heston, CEO of Milwaukee-based Heston Wind.
Heston Wind is a wind energy solutions firm, that specializes in all areas of wind energy from consulting to constructing.
According to Fritz, Robertson became interested in exploring the potential for a public/private partnership after reading a newspaper article that outlined a plan by three suburban school districts to construct a wind farm as a way to generate revenue for their schools.
Robertson’s plan is to construct a wind turbine on his property (the former Paper Mill site) and sell the energy it produces to the school and village. After five years, the village and school would be able to purchase the turbine by assuming any remaining costs and taking over the operations and maintenance of the site and structure.
Federal stimulus funds are currently available for such partnerships. Fritz said the federal dollars would cover one-third of the debt cost. Bugg had indicated that the developer’s initial costs would be around $700,000.
The site being considered it located just to the north of the First Avenue extension. A rusty water tower currently sitting on the site would be removed to make way for the turbine.
Energy produced from the turbine could be added to the electrical grid and used to power the village’s sanitary treatment plant. According to Fritz, net metering laws allow for only one net user to pull from the grid, but because of the close proximity of schools to the potential tower site, the district could have a direct connection.
Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg said the district could use the wind-generated energy to power its administration center, intermediate school and possibly the elementary building.
“It could be an opportunity for us to save some money,” Bugg told the Board of Education in September.
According Jason Smith, the district’s director of business services, the district spent $110,206.95 to power the three buildings. Electric costs at the intermediate school were $58,811.9, $50.468.20 at the elementary and $926.78 at the administration center.
Fritz estimates the village could also save money by using wind energy to power the utility plant. Currently the village spends $26,000 to power the site. He noted that future savings could be realized by creating a direct link to the downtown street lights.
Heston Wind notes that wind energy is the most cost effective renewable energy source available, but the exact cost savings are unknown.
Robertson has contracted Heston Wind to conduct a feasibility study.
A multitude of factors are being looked at including zoning, application requirements, state and local regulations, savings and cost.
Fritz said he’s been directed by the Village Board to look for ways to save dollars, so when Robertson and Heston approached him he thought it was worth investigating.
“There are still a lot of questions and answers, I need to get more information before I take this to the Village Board,” Fritz said. “No concrete decisions have been made.”
Several government entities have already installed wind turbines and others are looking at the potential benefits. Bureau Valley High School in Manlius was the first school in the state to install a turbine on its property, dozens of others have followed.
The idea of a standalone turbine is not new to Coal City, the Coal City Fire Protection District considered the installation of one at its satellite station on Berta Road, but opted to withdraw its plan because of zoning and cost issues.
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