Fayette's wind turbine project looks like a go 03.24.10

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Fayette superintendent of schools Russell Griggs is hoping for windy days ahead. The school chief believes he’s finally realized a goal he set for the district: a wind turbine large enough to create substantial savings on electricity costs.

Fayette’s board of education accepted a bid last week for the erection of a 250 kW turbine behind the school.

If the wind blows in a typical pattern, the district will save up to $50,000 annually in electrical costs.

The $1.1 million turbine project is expected to be funded largely by leftover money from the school construction project. No money from the school’s general fund will be used.

About 75 percent of the cost of Fayette’s new $18.2 million school was paid by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission (OSFC)—an agency that funnels money from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies for school construction projects—and about $700,000 remained unspent.

The funds cannot be used for projects such as new athletic fields, but Griggs received permission to use the money for the turbine.

In addition, about $400,000 in interest was accumulated during the project. The district must return $135,000 to the state, but the remainder can also be used for the turbine. Leftover funds from the demolition of the old buildings must also be returned.

The district also obtained a $200,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development.

Five contractors submitted bids for the turbine, but the low bidder eventually withdrew. Instead the contract was awarded to Henning USU of Toledo at a cost of $1,033,000.

The company’s maintenance contract was extended from one year to five for an additional $29,000. An upgrade to a high-efficiency 300 kW transformer, at a cost of $11,000, will deliver a better return from the turbine at lower wind speeds, Griggs said.

A contingency fund of $27,000 was also added to the final figure.

Griggs said a maintenance fund for the turbine will be established, as required for all OSFC projects. A fund will also be created to track savings from the turbine’s electrical generation, Griggs said, and he expects the board might choose to use a portion of the savings for future maintenance of the system.

Construction

By moving toward alternative energy early on, Griggs believes the district is saving some cash.

“With the potential future of alternative energy, many companies are trying to gain experience in the field,” he said.

The Buehrer Group—the architectural firm for the project—is offering its services at a nominal cost in order to have a turbine project on its résumé.

Henning USU will serve as a general contractor and manager for the project, Griggs said, with the erection of the turbine handled by Engineered Process Systems—an energy consulting firm based in Huron, Ohio. The company installed a turbine in use at the University of Toledo.

The 250 kW turbine is manufactured by Wind Energy Solutions. The two-bladed turbine will be mounted on a 131-foot tower, with the blades measuring 100 feet from tip to tip.

Site work, including the base for the tower, is scheduled this summer. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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