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Wawasee considers middle school wind turbine

SYRACUSE – A dozen community members will help decide if wind power is right for the Wawasee School Corp.

Including residents, business leaders and students from the district all invited by school board members, the Wind Turbine Study Committee first met Tuesday at the high school. They heard from the planners and engineers who already pitched to the school board the idea of installing a wind turbine at Wawasee Middle School.

“No one on the school board is dead-set for or against it,” Schools Superintendent Tom Edington told committee members. “Right now we want to learn and study, study and learn.”

He added that Wawasee currently spends about $1 million every year in energy costs, which is why they have been looking at making buildings more energy efficient and exploring homegrown power options. Wind speed and available space at the middle school make a wind turbine a viable prospect.

The 230-foot-tall, 900,000 kW turbine would be installed at the southwest corner of the property, according to initial plans. It could generate not only power but also income for the district through a renewable energy credit deal with Nipsco, said Tony Kuykendall with Perfomance Services Inc.

Nipsco began offering a “feed-in” tariff in July, effectively buying power from renewable energy producers. Wawasee officials applied to the 15-year program, which has a limit of 30 mW worth of participant energy producers, but haven’t learned yet if they can claim one of the last few spots.

Performance Services is overseeing a similar project at Tippecanoe Valley School Corp., where turbine components were received Tuesday afternoon. The total cost for that project is $2.63 million, and similar costs are expected at Wawasee.

Generating $164,000 worth of current every year, the turbine would produce $5.2 million in income for the corporation by the end of its 25-year expected lifespan, and pay for itself after 14 years, Kuykendall said. Exact figures depend on how Wawasee structures payment for construction and ongoing maintenance.

Edington noted that maintenance could be paid from the capital projects fund while Nipsco payments received into the general fund, meaning “you could literally use it to pay for education.”

Kuykendall acknowledged that Nipsco would not pay during downtime, when power is not produced, but said the turbine should be running three-fourths of the time during high winds in September through May and one-third of the time in summer.

Besides answering committee members’ questions, school officials said numerous studies will have to be done – including bird migration patterns and turbine noise and vibration – and issues resolved such as zoning and effects on neighbors as they explore the wind power option for Wawasee.

The committee is scheduled to meet again Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. at the middle school.