Oregon City Schools will have next spring to study bird migration patterns at Clay High School, Eisenhower Middle School, and Coy Elementary before midsize wind turbines are operating on those grounds.
But the district last week did not agree to a three-year moratorium on operating six turbines – part of a $7.3 million, two-phase project to increase educational research and supply electricity – that the Black Swamp Bird Observatory near Oak Harbor has been trying to secure.
Clay already has had a small-scale, 25-kilowatt turbine on its campus for two years that has produced 25 percent more electricity than expected. Under a partnership with SUREnergy of Sandusky, which is gathering investors and applying for government funding, the high school will add two 750-kilowatt turbines next year.
Those two turbines are expected to meet 90 percent to 100 percent of electricity needs on Clay’s campus, including the administration building and bus garage. Eisenhower and Coy are to get two 100-kilowatt turbines, with one at each expected to be erected next year. The six will be leased for 15 years from a limited liability company composed of investors.
Dennis Slotnick, who teaches biology and environmental science at Clay, said during a school board meeting last week that the initial four turbines will not begin operating for eight months and spring migration data will be collected before that.
The district’s wind turbine plan continued to draw controversy at the school board meeting last week, with some residents questioning why the project was not part of a competitive bidding process.
Mark Shieldcastle of Oak Harbor, research director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, presented the board with a list of questions, including one about competitive bidding. Other questions were about whether the plan was reviewed by a third party and how long the turbines are expected to last.
Superintendent Mike Zalar said the project did not have to be put out to bid because the school district is leasing the turbines. Attorneys and insurance officials, he said, have reviewed the project for the district, which has paid only for a $24,000 feasibility study from permanent improvement funds.
The turbines, meanwhile, are guaranteed to last for 20 years, Mr. Slotnick said.
Monthly lease costs are not to exceed current electricity costs during the 15-year lease period, district officials say. Ownership will revert to the district after 15 years.
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