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School divisions consider wind farm

Two school divisions in the foothills are considering jumping on the green energy bandwagon and participating in a wind farm project.

Foothills School Division and Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools are part of a group of between 30 and 40 Alberta boards exploring the possibility of investing in a wind farm.

The group had a feasibility study completed which determined the wind farm is viable, explained Drew Chipman, assistant superintendent of corporate services for Foothills School Division (FSD).

“This matches our profile quite well and going forward it looks like it might be a prudent investment for us to meet our electricity needs and also to provide us with the opportunity to have a little bit of flexibility,” he said.

The wind farm is proposed to be located at the eastern side of Alberta and return energy to the grid, Chipman explained. The next step is to determine the cost, which he said the group hopes to have by the end of June.

The division’s board of trustees tentatively supported the project presuming it works financially and enough school divisions join in for the project to be cost-effective, he said.

“Our tentative agreement is based on the fact that the numbers make sense when they come back,” Chipman explained.

He said the board recognizes upfront costs for alternative energy can be expensive, but in the long run it can be beneficial given environmental considerations and the ability to provide cost certainty.

“We want to make sure that we know what our costs are, we have cost certainty going forward, we’re not just paying based on marketplace and what’s happening today, that we’ve got a known cost for energy going forward so we can budget correctly,” he said.

Chipman added the group hopes to receive financial support from the provincial government.

“It’s exciting,” he said of the project. “We see this as a real win for the school division.”

Knowing the value of wind power, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools decided to take part in the group investigating the project, explained the division’s superintendent Mike O’Brien.

Holy Trinity Academy is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) school and follows criteria set out by the Canada Green Building Council. Since opening six years ago, half of the energy the building uses is from wind power, O’Brien said.

He said the division pays a group rate for the energy, but it is a little more expensive than traditional electricity.

The division has not decided whether it will participate in the wind farm and will wait until it learns the financial implications, O’Brien explained.

“If it looks like a really viable option then we’ll look at it,” he said. “It has to pay for itself because I’m not going to take education dollars and put them into that.”

Looking into the wind project fits in with the idea of the division being a good steward of the environment, resources and tax dollars, he added.