March 17, 2015

School’s wind turbine fails to work nearly 3 years after installation

DIGGING DEEPER: School's wind turbine fails to work nearly 3 years after installation | By Kristin Crowley | WREX | March 16, 2015 |

A wind turbine was supposed to pay an Ogle County school’s electric bill every month. Three years after it was installed, it hasn’t covered a dime. 13 News is Digging Deeper into the cost of the wind turbine’s failure to launch.

At Eswood Elementary, there’s no shortage of wind going around. So why isn’t its wind turbine going around?

“Control issues, break issues, we’ve had to put in different transformers,” said Superintendent Joe Schwartz. “We’ve cut some trees down.”

Schwartz listed off the issues plaguing the turbine since it went up in May 2012. Because of those, it’s never worked. That means the school hasn’t collected on Rock Wind’s promise of free energy.

“The turbine is projected, if their predictions work out to cover our electric bill and have a little bit of electricity to sell back to the grid,” said Schwartz.

So how much money is that? The school’s electric bill averages out to about $2,000 a month. That’s $24,000 a year. That means by now the school should have saved $68,000. And it could potentially make about $20,000 a year selling energy back to the grid. Rock Wind’s President, Dick Johnson says delays were expected.

“We knew it was going to take a while, we figured it would take six months to get it running,” said Johnson.

He admits, however, he didn’t expect it would take this long. But he promises the turbine will work, and soon.

“My engineer says by May 1,” said Johnson.

Johnson refurbished the wind turbine, which came from Denmark. He says it was built in the 1980’s and worked up until the day it was deconstructed. Johnson says he upgraded the computer system for the turbine to ensure it was up to speed for modern function. But the setbacks were something he never predicted, and he says he expected the turbine would have been running two years ago.

He adds while he knows the delays are frustrating for the school, he has a vested interest in seeing the turbine succeed.

“It’s costing me money, it’s not only frustrating. The school gets frustrated but I put a lot of money into it. More than that it’s a point of pride. I want it to work and do what it’s supposed to do.

In a few weeks Johnson says crews will do testing on the turbine to make sure it will make that May 1 goal.

The school does not pay any money for the turbine right now. However, once it is running, it must pay $10,000 a year for 10 years. That’s still half what it pays a year for its electricity bill.

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