Wind Opportunities for Tribal Schools

Schools Use Wind Energy to Further their Goals

The nation's schools, always on the lookout for means to provide the best educational experience possible with limited resources, are implementing an increasing number of Wind Energy projects. Each project is tailored to benefit local needs and priorities, and the innovative means of financing these projects are as varied as the communities themselves.

The Iowa Experience

Iowa has led the way in developing school wind projects — both in numbers of projects and project size. As of this writing, there are 8 schools with wind turbines in production, ranging in size from 50 kW to 750 kW. The Spirit Lake Community School District installed a 250 kW machine in 1993. They obtained a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant of $119K, and funded the remainder of the project with a low interest loan from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

As of February 2001, the savings on electrical bills had totaled $124.9K. So the school district decided to follow it up with a second, larger machine (750 kW) that year. When both turbines are paid off (in 2007), the revenue generated (estimated to be $120K/year) will be used to enhance school programs. The school is also proud of the use of the turbine as an educational tool and of the contributions to the environment.

Iowa school districts have capitalized on state and federal tax incentives. These include the Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI) and the Iowa Energy Center's Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program. The schools have learned from each other's experiences and the Iowa DNR has facilitated the process. Early projects relied on grants to get going, and later projects have relied on low-interest loans.

Western Minnesota. Lac Qui Parle Valley Schools was the first MN school district to erect a turbine — in 1995. They combined a $60K state grant with a $200K state interest-free loan. The 225 kW Micon provides energy to school buildings. Power generated when school is not in session is sold to Ottertail Power. The system has an anticipated 10-year payback.

Nearby Pipestone School District installed a 75 kW NEG Micon 750. This was funded through the Xcel Energy Renewable Energy Fund, so that all of the proceeds can be returned to the school fund. In the works are wind machines for the Northfield School District and Carleton College, which have been awarded a Minnesota Department of Commerce grant for "a new grid-connected, community-owned wind energy project of 750 kW or larger, that is to be installed, interconnected, and fully operational, providing electricity to a Minnesota electric utility by June 30, 2005."

Bureau Valley Schools, Manlius, Illinois

The Bureau Valley School District spent a year doing a financial and technical analysis and preparing a thorough proposal for a new 750 kW turbine project — that has an estimated cost of $1M. Their analysis shows that the turbine could mean as much as $100K per year in energy savings for the district — money to be spent on education rather than energy. They have received a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Fund for $332K towards the project, and are working to line up the rest of the financing. They hope to have the machine up and generating by Christmas 2004.

Zeeland West High School, Holland, Michigan

This project (a 10 kW Bergey XL-10 on an 85-foot tower) was financed primarily through donations. The Zeeland Board of Public works donated $20K. Craig Brumels, a local contractor and enthusiast, donated the tower and his time to assemble the tower and turbine. GMB Architects-Engineers donated time for design and engineering. And the school district put in $25K.

The primary purpose of the system is educational — it is fully monitored so that students and the public can see how it performs. Maintenance entails annual inspection and lubrication. The school will use all of the electricity generated, and it is anticipated to save the school $1200 per year in utility bills.

Shade School, Somerset, Pennsylvania

Shade School received a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to develop a renewable energy demonstration site to be used in environmental education. Funds channeled into the project originated from Waste Management, Inc., which has a landfill in the community, as well as matching funds from the local power company. The system, which includes a wind turbine (Whisper H80), photovoltaic panels, and storage, is in a freestanding building near the sports fields. It provides additional space for activities such as the school's environmental camp, and power is used for scoreboards, lighting, etc. The school receives credit against their bill for power generated and used locally.

Danville School, Danville, Vermont

Danville School matched a $33K grant from the state Public Service Board with $5K of local in-kind services in order to install it's 90-foot-tall, 10 kW grid connected system. The machine is up and running, though not yet fully instrumented. They look forward to using the machine for educational purposes, as well as any energy cost savings it may generate.

Massachusetts Green Schools Initiative

Building on DOE's School Building Assistance Program, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative launched a Green Schools Initiative. The intent is to enable school districts to construct or renovate buildings that will cost lest to operate and provide healthier learning environments. Grants were awarded to many schools for feasibility studies. Eight of those schools were then awarded design and construction grants.

The projects are in varying stages. Some schools already had renewable energy features, such as Beverly High School, which had a 100 kW PV array and a 10 kW wind turbine. New projects all incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy features - including some wind applications. Where the wind resource is good, there are turbines as large as 10 kW used to generate electricity. Where it is not as good, small units are installed, primarily for demonstration and educational purposes.

Native American Community Colleges

The Blackfeet Tribe obtained a DOE planning grant and partially matched it with Tribal funds in order to develop this small utility-scale turbine for the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana. Partners in the effort included DOE, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the Blackfeet Community College, Glacier Electric Cooperative, Zond Systems, Inc., and educators from Montana State University.

The 100 kW VESTAS V-17 provides power to offset the college's electric costs, through an arrangement with Glacier Electric Cooperative. In the initial test year, the power was purchased at 2.7 cents/kWh, and $4.9K was credited against the college's annual electric bill. Local workers were used for construction, operations and maintenance, and students participated in environmental analysis.

A Vestas V-47 660 kW machine is planned for the Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota and another for the Fort Peck Community College in Montana.

Schools Benefit from the Lease of State Trust Lands

Landowners who lease their lands to be used for utility-scale wind electricity generation are typically compensated at the rate of $2-5K per year per turbine. Texas led the way in leasing school state trust lands (sometimes called "endowment lands") to wind farm developers. In Texas, the funds generated from the leases go to the permanent school fund. This model is becoming common in western states. In 2003, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources signed a lease with Sagebrush Power Associates allowing it to locate about a quarter of the new 121-turbine Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project on state trust lands. Expected revenues, which will be used for school construction, are $5.6M in the first 25 years.