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Wind turbine proposal may provide solution

At a special meeting May 22, the Akron-Westfield School Board unanimously approved entering into an agreement for disposal of the wind turbine.

The proposal is for Joe Graham of BlueSkyWind LLC of New York to have a 120-day “free look period” to create an arrangement which will allow his company to take steps to release Akron-Westfield School District from all wind turbine responsibilities.

A-W Board Member Jodi Thompson made the motion, filled with legal ease, to accept BlueSkyWind LLC’s proposal and Board Member Roger Oetken seconded it. The vote was 6-0 with Board Member Nick Schoenfelder absent.

Basically, the proposal gives Graham 120 days to come up with a plan to purchase the wind turbine but keep it running here, Business Manager Jodi Ryan explained to The Akron Hometowner.

“The proposed agreement is contingent on the wind turbine being run at this location but someone else will own it,” said Ryan, explaining the district’s Purchase Power Agreement with Heartland Consumer Power District and the City of Akron expires in six years. “We’d have to fix the turbine and then take the turbine down ourselves and remediate the land (upon which it sets) completely.”

“It’s easily in the hundreds of thousands of dollars this will save us,” said A-W Shared Superintendent Randy Collins, noting a prior consultant had found expenses to have a crane brought to the site, which is needed to fix the turbine and/or dissemble it, cost about $10,000 a day. “Costs were just crazy.”

The Vesta V-44 wind turbine “is not a common wind turbine; consequently there are few operators interested to utilize the components for surplus parts,” wrote Graham in his proposal agreement. “At this time the wind turbine in general and its components are at risk of no longer being salvageable at some point in the future. To avoid reaching this critical stage, BlueSkyWind LLC has outlined a plan of action…”

The plan includes the 120-day “free look period” where BlueSky Wind LLC will:

• Pursue all means possible to keep the machine in place by securing a power purchaser (like Heartland);

• Formulate a strategy, at their expense, for funding the renovation of the turbine;

• Negotiate with landowners a new or revised ground land lease for the current wind turbine site; and

• Provide evidence of their ability to refurbish and operate the turbine going forward.

Finally, BlueSkyWind LLC would submit an agreement permitting the transfer of turbine ownership to them.

Then the school board would review the agreement and sell the wind turbine to them for $1 through an “As-Is, Where-Is” purchase and sales agreement.

The proposal does not include selling the wind turbine to a third party at this time or replacing the wind turbine with another one at the same site.

“We’re not just giving the wind turbine away,” said Ryan. “We’re trying to not put any more money into it and keep it running here, and this agreement is contingent on it being run at this location.”

“This turbine has never been a money maker,” said Collins.

It was under Interim Superintendent Larry Williams’ direction in the 2011-2012 school year that a cost analysis of the whole wind turbine project showed the turbine was not making a profit and in fact had cost the district just under $500,000 since it was built in 1998.

So far this school year, the district has spent $1,350 in repairs after the wind turbine’s brake mechanism failed and the district temporarily had no control over the wind turbine’s spinning blades.

“It’s time to move on,” said Collins. “It was a wonderful idea – a great vision but economically, it’s just not feasible and we need to be good caretakers of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

“This is costing us,” he said, “and we are not reaping enough benefits for the kids.”

“When you look at having a wind turbine, it sounds like it’s a sure win,” said Collins. “Put something up (using Physical Plant & Equipment Levy revenues) to pay for it. The revenues it generates through electricity you’re supposed to be able to put in the district’s General Fund. It seems like a sure thing but it didn’t turn out that way.”

At the end of the 120-day period, BlueSkyWind LLC may have solved A-W’s dilemma or not.

“This is far from a sure thing,” said Collins. “(Graham) is going to be doing the same types of things we’ve been doing the past few years – trying to make this economically feasible.”

“We may be in the same spot 120 days from now,” he said, “but we’re trying. The attitude of the (school) board is we’re going to give it a shot.”

“It’s contingent upon contingent upon contingent,” said Ryan. “The Purchase Power Agreements, land easements, and repairs.”