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Wind for Schools: Source of Education, Electricity, Revenue

Wind for Schools: Source of Education, Electricity, Revenue

Date: 12/6/2007

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Roya Stanely, Director of Iowa's Office of Energy Independence (MP3 3.3 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:33.

Wind Powering America is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to help schools lower their electricity bills, and at the same time, teach students about wind energy. The pilot Wind for Schools project started in Colorado. Today, 23 states are home to installed school wind projects. One of those states is Iowa.

According to the Director of Iowa's Office of Energy Independence Roya Stanley, the wind for schools project has a long history in the state.

"The very first wind turbine on a school in Iowa, that is utility scale, was dedicated in 1993."

That was in the Spirit Lake Community School District where Stanley says the educational portion of this wind for schools model had a big impact on the students.

"The story there started with the kids in the school district saying to the School Board, 'So now we've had this environmental curriculum training, but what is it that you're doing for the environment for our school district?' And so the school district decided that they wanted to have a wind turbine."

Stanley says that was in 1991 — and the district started exploring the possibility of developing local wind resources into a source of on-site power. In 1992, she says the school district received a grant from the Department of Energy and a low-interest loan from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to fund the purchase and installation of a 250 kilowatt turbine.

"Iowa has a program that is operated by the Iowa Energy Center, and it's an alternative loan program. It works with banks and actually offers a zero-interest loan to schools. In addition, schools can access what's called municipal finance that is low-interest loans and they can use that combined capital to give them a very low-interest rate to invest in wind turbines that provide electricity for the schools."

The turbine is located 800 feet behind the playground of the Spirit Lake Elementary School. The turbine came online in 1993 and the electricity generated is fed directly into the school. According to Stanley, the school's loan was paid off within four years — and since 1998 — the district has generated 20 to 25-thousand dollars in revenue from selling the electricity to the local utility.

"Since that time, that particular school district added another, larger turbine to its portfolio, if you will. And in addition, then other schools have added wind turbines to their facilities."

In fact, Stanley says there are now 10 wind for school projects in the state. That second turbine in the Spirit Lake district — she says — came on line in 2001. With the 750 kilowatt turbine, the school district generates enough electricity to power the entire school district. The bigger turbine powers the high school, middle school, administration building, a technical building, the bus barn and the lights at the football stadium. As a result, the school district anticipates the turbines will offset about 120-thousand dollars in electricity costs each year. Once the new turbine is paid off this year, that becomes tax free income the district can use for school improvements.

Nearly 70 wind for schools projects are installed with another 40 planned or under development. For more information, visit the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at www dot eere dot energy dot gov (www.eere.energy.gov) or the Wind Powering America Web site at www dot windpowering america dot gov (www.windpoweringamerica.gov).

This information was last updated on December 13, 2007