ONTARIO – Ontario Local Schools is telling the company that owns the wind turbine at Stingel Elementary to fix the turbine or lose the schools’ business and remove the equipment.
The turbine has sat idle since November 2016, when its transformer stopped working.
Superintendent Lisa Carmichael said district residents regularly inquire about the turbine. They often suggest that when the turbine isn’t running, the district isn’t saving money.
But treasurer Randy Harvey said the opposite is true – the 6 to 7 percent of its energy Ontario buys from wind turbine company, Rock Road Wind, is more expensive than the remainder of the district’s energy, which it gets through Ohio Edison.
That’s one reason the district is refusing to approve a contract amendment proposed by Rock Road Wind under which the energy company would agree to replace the faulty transformer and the district would agree to keep buying power from Rock Road Wind for six more years after the current contract expires in about three years.
District board members unanimously voted Tuesday to reject the proposed contract amendment, saying the company is defaulting on the contract by failing to repair the turbine to keep it operational.
According to the contract between the school district and Rock Road Wind, the wind energy company is responsible for maintenance and repairs throughout the 10-year period that the school district has agreed to buy power from the company.
Board members said they had no interest in extending the contract as use of the turbine is not saving the district money.
The savings the district has seen from the wind turbine project came not from the wind power itself, but from a connection switch change that gave the district a primary connection with Ohio Edison rather than a secondary connection.
The connection switch change has saved the district about $81,000, while purchasing wind energy has cost the district an extra $20,000 compared to Ohio Edison rates, so the net savings is about $61,000, Harvey said. These figures take into account energy produced by both the turbine at Stingel Elementary and the other turbine across the street, which is still operational.
Carmichael and Harvey told board members they tried to negotiate better rates with Rock Road Wind, but that the company says it cannot budge on the rates, which are set in advance and increase annually.
As a result of the board’s action Tuesday, Carmichael will direct they district’s attorney to notify Rock Road Wind that the district is demanding the company uphold the current contract by fixing the turbine without the assurance of a contract extension.
If Rock Road Wind fails to fix the turbine, the district plans to consider the company to have defaulted on the contract. Board members expressed a willingness to sue the company, if necessary, to get the company to remove the wind turbines at the end of the contract period or when the contract is terminated.
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