NORMAL – A wind turbine could be providing half of the power for Heartland Community College’s Normal campus by this time next year.
The college’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to intensify the research needed to figure out if a 1.65 megawatt turbine would be financially feasible. Heartland’s business vice president, Rob Widmer, said the motion allows the college to obtain a nonbinding bid for the turbine itself, to come up with a financing package for the $4.6 million project and to continue to work with Siemens Industry in Bloomington to develop an energy performance contract.
Widmer said all those needed to be approved before the college can go ahead with the project.
“These are pieces of the puzzle that have to come together to determine if this is a picture that makes financial sense,” he said.
Widmer said initial research estimates the turbine could provide half of the college’s electricity and save about $400,000 a year in energy costs for the first 15 years, and more than $600,000 a year after that.
Heartland already has a $500,000 federal grant for the project, which requires costs to be paid back in energy savings within 20 years.
The college likely would borrow money to finance the project and use money saved from utility expenses to repay the loan over 15 years.
The college also has applied for grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
If the project proceeds, the turbine could be up and running in a year on the northern corner of the campus behind the facilities building.
College President Allen Goben applauded the board and staff for continuing to follow through on the turbine.
“A lot of colleges have talked about something like this for all of five minutes and aren’t doing anything about it. But our staff has been doing the work for it on top of all of their workload,” said Goben.
Widmer said the board should have the feasibility information within two months. At that time they could formally vote to go ahead with construction of the turbine.
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