In Scotland, wind turbines installed at five schools by a school district “at a cost of £50,000 produced savings of less than £50 in their first year.” The project has been described as “riddled with technical problems” and the turbine makers promises to provide upgraded turbines to the district next year. A little further south, in North Yorkshire county, England, the Nidderdale Herald reports that the “Nidderdale High School and Community College hopes to save thousands of pounds this year from using electricity generated by its very own wind turbine.” Sounds promising, at least until the next sentence: “The turbine, which has been out of action after experiencing two years of technical problems….”
In the United States, it appears that installing wind turbines on school grounds is popular in the northern plains states and elsewhere. A “fact sheet” produced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (PDF, August 2004) said, “Wind energy projects can power
schools with clean energy, provide revenue for districts, and provide educational opportunities for students.” NREL cites a number of projects in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, and elsewhere.
In January 2004, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer-Press reported:
Northfield [Minnesota] school leaders want to harness the wind, so they’re contemplating staking some $1.65 million in debt on a turbine that could generate enough energy to power about 600 homes, by far the largest wind project operated by a public school in the Midwest and maybe the country. …the district would sell the energy for somewhere between $77,000 and $120,000 a year, then use the cash to pay off the turbine and for general school expenses.
I liked this part of the explanation:
Northfield leaders have nabbed one $150,000 state grant already and are trying for others. They’re also seeking an opinion from the Minnesota attorney general’s office that generating electricity is an appropriate venture for school districts, akin to cities operating municipal liquor stores.
I can see the connection, both the wind turbine and the municipal liquor store can help produce a warm feeling inside for those who indulge, but a certain amount of erratic behavior should be expected.
(Image captured from the Bureau Valley School District in Manlius, Illinois wind turbine web cam.)