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D-300 moving closer to building turbines

CARPENTERSVILLE – District 300, in collaboration with two other Illinois school districts, is tilting toward establishing a wind turbine farm by 2013 as a new revenue source.

The concept of harnessing wind energy to offset districtwide electricity bills was first presented two years ago. School leaders also see the potential for new educational opportunities for environmental science classrooms.

District 300 joined the Keeneyville District 20 and Prospect Heights District 23 to form the School Wind Consortium Joint Action Renewable Energy Agency (SWCA).

The aim is to own, finance and operate a wind turbine facility to generate and deliver power from renewable energy resources.

At Wednesday’s District 300 finance committee meeting, Cheryl Crates, chief financial officer, and David Ulm, district supervisor of facilities and energy management, provided the latest planning status of the wind turbine project.

SWCA will seek approval from its school boards to negotiate a 20-year purchase agreement with a Chicago-based firm.

Consortium officials say the plan will enable the districts to use and sell the energy generated from the turbines, which then would reduce energy and operating costs for the districts.

Last school year, District 300’s energy costs for its 28 buildings was close to $3 million.

Although the financial projections and data are under review, the district expects to not incur additional expenses in operating the wind farm.

The cost of the project will be “the equivalent or less” than the district’s current energy costs, said Meriann Besonen, finance director. The district expects to eventually generate revenue through the project.

In July, the consortium agency sought proposals from lenders after it was unable to issue revenue bonds as a means of investment.

In response, a Chicago-based firm, Invenergy, LLC, proposed to build an addition to its existing 270-megawatt wind farm in Bishop Hill, Henry County. The design and building process would take 12 months.

Representatives from the three-district consortium plan to host a study session for all three boards of education at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 in the District 300 administration building, 300 Cleveland Avenue in Carpentersville.