L’ANSE – The L’Anse Area Schools Board of Education declined involvement Monday in a wind turbine project after a similar project through the same company created controversy in Ishpeming.
Superintendent Ray Pasquali introduced a recommendation to approve a power purchase agreement between the district and Clean Green Energy, LLC, but board members instantly raised their red flags.
“I have a number of concerns with this. … I know that there is a lot of controversy,” board member Kristy Toth said, citing concerns with the wind turbine itself and the company proposing it.
She went on to raise concerns about specific language in the purchase agreement, including the district being financially responsible for relocating it if the community had any concerns after installation, such as health problems, noise issues or complaints about it being an eyesore. Also, the district would be on the hook for a 20-year commitment.
“It puts an enormous amount of power into the company’s hands rather than ours,” Toth continued, raising an issue that even Clean Green Energy representative Doug Russell acknowledged at the Oct. 15 school board meeting in which he gave a brief presentation.
“He admitted they have had a learning project going on with the facility they have in Ishpeming,” Toth said.
A turbine installed several years ago next to the Pioneer Bluffs Apartments owned by the Ishpeming Housing Commission has turned out to be too expensive to run and there have been problems with the blades. The Ishpeming City Council wrote a letter to the housing commission in September asking them to take the turbine down. A new turbine model has been introduced which is expected to fix the problems, according to Clean Green Energy, but it does not have a track record yet.
“I don’t think we need to be a learning process for them, and we have undertaken the tablet project (1:1 Technology Initiative, which will mean every student in the district has a tablet by 2015-16). That’s huge. I think we should focus on what we have going and wait for more established projects to come our way rather than jumping on board with this when it’s still experimental, and it is very controversial.”
Board president Jason Ayres agreed, especially emphasizing concern with the 20-year contract. He also said several wind studies have been conducted in the past in L’Anse and Baraga, and “the wind isn’t there.”
“I don’t know that I want to be the guinea pig, especially if it comes to 20 years of problems,” Ayres said. “I don’t know that I want to be tied to that. Maybe if they want to come to us and give us a more site-specific and purchaser-specific agreement, I would reconsider it.”
Pasquali acknowledged the board’s concerns and added that there would be “minimal (power) savings involved.”
“If the power plant generates one-sixth of the power needed to energize the school, it’s a 10 percent discount on just that portion. We shouldn’t be doing this for any financial reasons,” he said.
The board took no formal action on the purchase agreement, but by declining to approve it, the wind study and wind turbine will not move forward, at least at this time.
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