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University gives ultimatum to wind turbine project, public forum to be held Monday

After seven years of planning, the University has given an ultimatum to its proposed wind turbine project, possibly ending the project’s existence due to budget concerns.

The project, which would provide at least 1.5 megawatts of electricity for campus use, has an estimated cost of about $5.2 million by the University’s calculations – a number that is $700,000 more than what was budgeted.

As a result, the University has asked the Student Sustainability Committee, or SSC, to forward a $700,000 grant by Feb. 2 in an effort to meet the Feb. 7 deadline to be included on the next Board of Trustees meeting agenda for approval.

“It is crucial that the University uphold its commitment to students and to the community to build a wind turbine this year,” said Amy Allen, junior in Engineering and president of Students for Environmental Concerns, or SECS. “The University’s latest budget includes over half a million dollars of unreasonable and removable costs.”

Of the $4.5 million for the project, two grants of $.5 million were included from the Office of University President Michael Hogan and the Office of Interim Chancellor Robert Easter. A $2 million grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation was also included in this budget, for which funding has been renewed three times throughout the past seven years. The remainder of the budgeted funding came from student-based funding from SSC.

To hear concerns of Urbana residents, the University’s Department of Facilities and Services scheduled a public forum regarding the project Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Urbana Civic Center, 108 E. Water St., in Urbana. Comments will also be heard from students as well as speakers from SSC and SECS.

“The SSC has already contributed a $500,000 grant to this project from student fees,” Allen said. “It is the University’s responsibility to do whatever it takes to keep their promise.”

The project, if constructed, would place one 40-foot wind turbine on the University’s South Farms near Curtis Road, helping the University achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 through the Climate Action Plan.