ALGONQUIN – It wasn’t supposed to be complicated once it got going. At least, that’s what Community Unit School District 300 CFO Cheryl Crates said more than a year ago.
But then, the Carpentersville-area school district also was supposed to own 13 wind turbines – enough to operate a 19.5-megawatt wind farm – by the end of last year.
The District 300 Board of Education discussed a resolution Monday to revive its plan to offset the cost of its electricity use with its share of revenue from a school wind farm consortium with two other suburban school districts.
“It isn’t quite what we thought we would do, but, in the end, there is no up-front cost,” Crates said.
The school board had approved an intergovernmental agreement in August 2010 to form the School Wind Consortium Agency with Keeneyville Elementary School District 20 and Prospect Heights School District 23.
That was supposed to be the final piece to allow the three districts to fund and operate the state’s first school district-owned wind farm. That farm was planned for Stark County.
But the consortium was unable to garner any interest in a revenue bond to fund the project from investors, according to a memorandum from Crates to District 300 Superintendent Michael Bregy. So it issued a request for proposals in July.
The School Wind Consortium now is discussing entering into a 20-year purchase agreement of renewable energy with Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, after interviewing seven respondents.
“We’re not building anymore. All we’re saying is we’ll buy green energy at this year’s price,” Crates said.
“We’ll be green, we’ll educate the students, and we’ll pay less.”
The company has proposed constructing an addition onto its 270-megawatt Bishop Hill facility in Henry County, about 120 miles southwest of District 300. That probably would be four or five turbines, Crates said.
The addition of those turbines would take about a year to complete and would be operational no later than Dec. 31, 2012, according to the memorandum. That way the project still will qualify for federal grant money, covering about a third of the cost of constructing the turbines, the CFO said.
“That’s why our electricity rate will be lower,” she said.
District 300’s consultants have said the agreement would save consortium members a projected $7 million, according to Crates. And the district has more than a 90 percent share in the potential savings – about $6.3 million, according to Dave Ulm, the district’s energy coordinator.
Mike Tennis, a Sleepy Hollow resident, questioned that agreement in the meeting’s one public comment.
“From my perspective, this project is outside the core competency of District 300. Your core competency is education, not operating an energy-for-profit endeavor,” Tennis said.
The three school boards involved in the consortium are set to vote this month to authorize the agreement between the School Wind Consortium and Invenergy. District 300 will do so at its next regular board meeting on Monday, Oct. 24.
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