PIGEON – Sometimes, less can be more.
The Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Board of Education is seeing this likely is the case with the three elementary school turbines. Information provided by DTE Energy shows if the district only operates two turbines and switches to a secondary educational institution rate, it can save more money than if three turbines were spinning – at least $9,000.
This is because the district would be able to use net metering if only two turbines were operating. Turbines at the 150 kilowatts-per-hour (KWPH) rate and below qualify for net metering: Those above 150 KWPH do not qualify, according to law. With all three turbines operating at maximum output, they produce a total of 195 KWPH.
Therefore, the board voted Monday night during its regular meeting to operate two turbines, decommission one and put the savings into a maintenance fund for the turbines. Superintendent Bob Smith said if the district saves $9,000 a year, this would more than cover the annual maintenance costs of the turbines.
“If you can save money and have a consistent maintenance program, it would be a wise decision (to decommission one turbine),” he said.
Smith said in a worst case scenario, the annual maintenance costs would total $5,000 to $6,000. He said most likely, the annual costs would be much less than this – about $1,000 to $2,000.
Board Vice President Greg Foy said he liked the idea of having a maintenance fund without a further cost to the district.
“We have to maintain (the turbines) – otherwise, they’re not doing us any good,” Foy said.
Smith said in order to switch to the educational rate and have a net metering plan, the district would need to get out of its current contract with DTE. However, he said, he didn’t think that would be an issue.
The switch to the educational rate and to a net metering plan will save the district $14,523 over not running any of the turbines, according to information presented at last month’s board meeting.
According to netmetering.com.ar, net metering is a program offered by a utility company for customers that install renewable energy systems to generate their own electricity that can be used to offset a portion of the electric energy provided by the utility. Any excess energy generated by the customer during the monthly billing cycle would be sold to the utility company and credited to the customer. In order to utilize net metering, the customer’s generation must be interconnected to the utility grid with a meter that can register the amount of electric energy that is used and produced during the billing cycle.
Smith said he talked with representatives from Energy Maintenance Service (EMS), which offers products and services to the wind industry, with an emphasis on construction, operations and maintenance and component repairs. He said EMS told him it would be a good idea to keep all the parts on the decommissioned turbine in working order, in case one of the two operating turbines has an issue and needs a part from the third turbine. In addition, if the district was to ever sell the decommissioned turbine, it would receive more money if the turbine parts were in good working order.
There was a brief discussion on whether the decommissioned turbine, which would need to be disconnected from the utility grid, should be kept standing or if it should be dismantled, with the parts on the ground. It was then decided the fate of the decommissioned turbine could be determined at a later date.
When it came time for the vote on decommissioning one of the turbines, the board’s motion originally stated the front turbine, closest to M-142, would be decommissioned. However, Student Services Director Kathy Dickens, who wrote for the $265,000 grant received by the district for the turbine project, offered a suggestion.
Dickens said the district should have all three turbines checked out to see which are in the best and worst condition. From there, the district can decide which one to decommission. She said even though the front turbine has lost blades twice in the past couple of years, it is in better shape than the turbine to the south of it. Therefore, decommissioning the front turbine might not be the best route to take. The board agreed to wait until all three turbines are checked over to see which one would be the best to decommission.
As for the missing blade on the front turbine, which fell off in November 2010, Smith said it will cost about $2,000 to $3,000 to have it replaced and the money could be taken out of the maintenance fund, once the savings from the operation of the two turbines is realized.
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