Case Studies

Minwind III - IX, Luverne, MN: Community Wind Project

The Minwind projects are a series of nine farmer-owned wind projects near the town of Luverne in southwestern Minnesota.  All of the Minwind projects were based around the idea that local ownership is central to maximizing local benefits, and the projects are intended to both generate new income for farmers and benefit the local community’s economy.

The first two projects, Minwind I and II, were completed in the fall of 2002, and each consist of two NEG Micon 950 kW turbines.  These were among the first farmer-owned turbines in the nation. Minwind III through IX came online in 2004, and each of these consists of a single, 1.65 MW NEG Micon turbine.

The Minwind projects grew out of discussions among a group of farmers about various options for developing agriculture-based energy projects. After noticing the similarities between community wind and cooperative ethanol production, the group decided to begin putting the pieces together for a community wind project.

When Minwind I and II were opened to investors, 66 investors from the region eagerly snapped up all the available shares in both companies in only 12 days.  Because of the demand for opportunities to participate in renewable energy projects and the success of the first two projects, planning for the second set began almost immediately following completion of the first.

Minwind’s successful model of community wind development has engaged more and more rural Minnesotans interested in this new investment opportunity. “Our goal was to help as many rural people as we possibly could,” says Minwind Energy CEO, Mark Willers.

The Minwind projects were developed with many objectives in mind, including:
•    Generating renewable energy
•    Creating local employment opportunities
•    Maintaining group ownership
•    Keeping profits local
•    Using proven technology
•    Sustaining stable management
•    Creating long-term marketing
•    Participating in the future

With local individuals at the heart of development, the Minwind projects are maximizing local benefit in many ways: through economic development, returns on investment, and business relationships. While describing local business support, Willers explains that “the [Minwind] group became friends with the Duluth Port Authority because they shipped turbines in through Duluth. This led to a good relationship with [them] and the discussion of future business relationships.”

What did it take to get these turbines spinning? The short answer is: cooperation, persistence, and creative funding.

After the success of Minwind I and II, participants in III-IX were asked to contribute $500 for research and development funds to see if the new projects would work. Investors knew that their deposit would not be returned if the projects did not fly.  This shared commitment carries through into the projects’ governance structure.  All nine Minwind management groups are organized as limited liability companies (LLC), and Minwind projects III through IX are largely based on the same cooperative principles as Minwind I and II:
•    All shareholders must be Minnesota residents, 85% of whom must be from rural communities.
•    Ownership is limited to a maximum of 15% per project for each investor.

These two criteria ensure that both the investment opportunities and the returns remain in local hands. By capping the amount of shares allowable per owner, Minwind is able to open this opportunity to a large number of small investors. “We didn’t do all kinds of work to get a PPA [power purchase agreement] and then have an MBA team come down here and buy the whole thing,” Mark Willers explains. “That’s not what we’re about.”

In addition, projects III-IX included a few new investor conditions to further ensure local control on the wind projects:
•    Each Minwind Company has a completely different group of people.
•    The business structures were carefully designed to ensure that the shares can be transferable among family members.

These new rules go even further to ensuring that the maximum number of rural investors has an opportunity to participate in the projects, and that the charter members will be able to pass shares to their children, and not have to sell them off to outsiders.

Willers emphasizes the importance of carefully considering the business plan for a wind project, saying, “If you are looking at owning some wind turbines, you need to understand where you’re going. Does the revenue come back to one person, a group, a school, a hospital?”

In additional to the contributions from local investors, Minwind III-IX took advantage of renewable energy grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Like all aspects of developing community wind projects, the USDA application process was one that required a lot of time and meticulous attention. “Its good business, but those things take extra time,” said Willers.  “You go over it a third time to make sure that these are the criteria USDA needs so there are no mistakes.” Each project was awarded $178,201 in USDA Farm Bill Section 9006 grant funds for expenses including engineering, transmission, equipment, and construction.  

The financing of the Minwind projects is unique in that the projects are not dependent on the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for financial viability.  The PTC provides a tax credit to wind power producers based on the amount of electricity produced over their first ten years of operation. Minwind investors are individually eligible for the PTC, in an amount proportionate to their investment. It was left to the individual investors whether or not they will participate in the PTC. Willers says that the Board’s decision not to rely on the tax credit for financing brought some additional stability and certainty to the project’s development.

Securing a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which defines the rate paid for the wind energy over a set number of years, is a critical factor in the success of any wind project. For the Minwind projects, negotiating both the PPA and the interconnection agreement (which allows the turbines to hook into the larger electrical grid) required working closely with Xcel Energy, which was a relationship that “needed to be built,” noted Willers. “We need to understand where we’re all going – not just show up one day saying, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to hook up to your transmission line.’” Willers noted that developing a close, working relationship with the utility early in the process was very important to the success of the projects.

One other key to the success of the Minwind projects was that in both phases, they were able to find and purchase turbines with relative ease.  With the recent rapid expansion of the larger wind energy market, many wind turbine manufacturers are sold out two years in advance, which can be challenging for smaller projects to plan around.

In the end, the Minwind projects involved enormous investments of time and energy from project participants, but those involved believe their efforts have been worthwhile.  “We’ve spent an incredible amount of time on this, but we needed to do it for our community and our friends who are farmers,” said Willers.

 

Minwind I & II, Luverne, MN: Community Wind Project

In 2000, a group of farmers in Luverne, Minnesota began to hatch a plan to build farmer-owned wind turbines in Rock County. Their goal was to find an investment that would generate new income for farmers and have economic benefits for the local community. The rapid growth of the wind industry around the country and the great success of wind farming on the nearby Buffalo Ridge made developing wind energy a natural choice. “We wanted a farmer-owned project that would bring economic development, get farmers a return on their investment, and could use local businesses and contractors to do the work,” said Mark Willers, a project leader and farmer from Beaver Creek, Minnesota.

“We are trying to get farmer ownership of wind projects to the forefront and it has been a challenge, but with dedicated people like Mark Willers and Tom Arends we’re making great strides.” –Dave Kolsrud, Corn-er Stone Farmers Cooperative.

 

Read the full in the Fall 2002 Windustry Newsletter.

Carleton College, Northfield, MN: Community Wind Project

Wind Energy in Higher Education
Case Study: Carleton College Northfield, Minnesota

CARLETON COLLEGE has a 350-foot tall mascot that is setting a new trend among universities by providing both revenue for the school and clean energy for the community. In September 2004, Carleton College dedicated the first college or university owned commercial-scale wind turbine in the nation to complement the college’s environmental statement, which aims to “be a model of environmental stewardship by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the college and the daily life of individuals.”

The 1.65 megawatt (MW) turbine is located about a mile and a half east of Carleton’s Northfield, Minnesota campus and has become “a popular destination for runners and bikers,” according to Carleton student Dave Holman. “Students love it, the community loves it, and alumni double love it…because it makes sound economic, PR, and ecological sense.”

A bit of friendly rivalry is common among schools, and other nearby universities are getting in on the action as well. Already, the University of Minnesota at Morris has installed a 1.65 MW wind turbine, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN is anticipating commissioning a 1.65 MW turbine in July 2006. Holman encourages the rivalry “because when we compete to do good things for society, everybody wins…and tell Olaf that Carleton’s currently winning,” he jokes.

Carleton College is a “local pioneer,” according to Bruce Anderson of RENew Northfield, demonstrating the economic and performance viability of wind development in the community. As the Project Manager f Facilities Planning and Management, Rob Lmppa says that this has been a “great learning experience.” And he is not alone. Already, Lamppa has given 50-60 tours of the turbine to school groups, individuals, and other bus loads of interested groups.

Integrating Wind in the Classroom
Many school wind projects are partially motivated by the educational opportunities in math, science, business, policy, and environmental studies, which are preparing their students with skills in a fast-growing industry. At Carleton, a variety of departments have been involved in various stages of the turbine project, such as, blade design, wind mapping for site assessment, and data conversion. For example, each month, the Carleton College Physics Department posts the wind production data in their building to keep tabs on the turbine electrical generation and revenue stream, over $384,000 to date.

Laying the Groundwork for University Wind Energy

Carleton’s installation of a 1.65 Vestas turbine was the culmination of approximately two years of planning and project development as well as an integral part of larger plans for greater Carleton campus sustainability and active renewable energy planning in the Northfield community.

During the summer of 2002, local citizens group RENew Northfield helped to convene a Northfield community wind energy task force that included the City of Northfield, the Northfield School District, Carleton College, and St. Olaf College. The task force identified a windy site on a farm about 1.5 miles east of Carleton’s campus. The college’s Board of Trustees officially approved the project in February 2004 and the project proceeded on schedule, commissioning and dedicating its turbine in September 2004.

Now that the local community has lived with the turbine for nearly a year and a half, Anderson says that there is generally “broad and strong support for the Carleton wind turbine.” A number of people have called his office at RENew Northfield just to say that they are thankful that the Carleton turbine is in their community. Anderson adds, “many view this project as a symbol of progress and pride in the community.”

Wind Economics and Policy
Electricity from the wind turbine is being sold to Xcel Energy for local use in the Northfield area. Xcel is paying 3.3 cents per kWh through a fixed 20 year contract, under the terms of Xcel’s standard small wind tariff (available for wind projects under 2 MW in Minnesota).

In addition to selling electricity to Xcel, Carleton is receiving 1.5 cents per kWh generated from the State of Minnesota via the Minnesota Renewable Energy Payment Incentive (MN REPI) program. The $1.8 million project at Carleton also was aided by a $150,000 “Community Wind Rebate” from the state of Minnesota. The rest of the capital expenditure was provided from Carleton directly.

The college expects to recoup its investment with interest within 10 to 12 years. After two semesters of independent study on the economics of the turbine, Holman suggests that “Carleton should invest in a wind farm as part of its endowment because it is an incredibly good investment. Wind for Carleton has the risk level of a bond, but returns like a stock with 8-12% per year. In addition to a yearly revenue stream of about $250,000, the PR value of the turbine has been immeasurable.”

Campus Sustainability
By generating wind power, the college offsets about 40% of its electricity use, significantly reducing harmful emissions of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. Over the life of the turbine, the college will avoid producing 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is important to students at Carleton who view the turbine as “a very strong piece of their school’s identity,” according to one student.

Paving the Way - St. Olaf and Others Follow Suit
Carleton might find itself to be a trendsetter if other colleges and universities in the Midwest continue to follow through on their own plans to install wind turbines. St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota at Morris, as well as some k-12 schools are catching on to the benefits of installing a wind turbine. St. Olaf College, located just across town in Northfield, received a $1.5 million grant from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development fund to install a turbine of their own to match Carleton’s machine. Commissioning is scheduled for July 2006. St. Olaf intends to use the energy directly for its campus rather than sell it to the grid, and expects to supply approximately 30% of the campus electricity demand with wind each year.

St. Olaf also has plans to incorporate the turbine into curriculum with “a really cool set of courses called Campus Ecology I and II in our environmental studies program,” according to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice President for Facilities at St. Olaf. The turbine will also likely be integrated into an interim course looking at sustainable and renewable materials, in addition to, energy. “I think the educational uses will multiply pretty quickly beyond anything we can imagine right now,” says Sandberg.

When asked if the college is pleased with the turbine experience thus far, Sandberg echoed the comments of many who have worked in wind project development: “It has been very challenging!”

The community around St. Olaf has been generally supportive of the project. According to Pete Sandberg, Assistant Vice president for Facilities at St. Olaf, “we've had only positive feed back – no opposition, in fact, at the public hearing for the county conditional use permit, a Northfield realtor spoke, and said he believed that the value of properties with a view of the other turbine in Northfield were enhanced!”

Why is a wind turbine such a good fit for schools and universities? “We generated most of our electricity for most of our history,” says Sandberg about the college as its own utility. “We see it as just another way we contribute to keeping the place going as efficiently as possible.”

In the first quarter of 2006, St. Olaf College signed a turbine purchase contract with Vestas, and has installed the footings, transformer, and wiring in the new electrical equipment control room. Construction is scheduled for completion in July 2006. All of the work to date has been paid from college capital funds allocated to the project, which includes the first installment payment of $400,000 to Vestas.

To the northwest, the University of Minnesota at Morris broke ground for its own Vestas 1.65 MW turbine in November 2004, and began producing electricity for the campus in March 2005. Installed at the University’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, the turbine is the first commercial-scale wind energy project at a public university. The turbine supplies the campus with 5.6 million kWh per year, which is more than half of its electricity needs. Many colleges and universities around the U.S. that don’t have wind resources enough for their energy needs are purchasing green power to support renewables on campus. View a list of universities purchasing green power on the Green Power Network.

As has been demonstrated by multiple successful k-12 school projects in Minnesota and Iowa, wind turbines can be a great fit for educational institutions because they provide a clean energy, a new source of revenue and educational opportunities for students. Also schools sometimes have the option of using a wind turbine to directly offset their energy use, which can be a significant economic advantage.

As more and more schools across the nation “go green” in a variety of ways, the Midwest is leading the way for wind.

More information:
Community Wind website - wind in schools
Carleton College - history of the wind turbine RENew Northfield
Clean Energy Resources Teams Case Study
St. Olaf's turbine

Windustry Updates

Community Wind Conference Wrap Up
Thank you to everyone who participated at the second national Community Wind Energy Conference in March 2006 in Des Moines, Iowa. Over 500 people from 32 states and 3 countries joined the discussion to advance community wind energy development.
The conference proceedings are now available online.

Windustry is growing!
Windustry brought 3 new staff members on board in the past year to continue expanding the scope and depth of our work. Brian Antonich was an intern with Windustry for two summers before joining full-time as Small Wind Program Analyst. Brian received his Masters Degree in 2005 from the University of Washington in Electrical Engineering, focusing on wind energy systems. Cole McVey moved from North Carolina in October 2005, where she worked with the Appalachian State University Energy Center and Small Wind Initiative, to Minnesota to work as Program Associate with Windustry. Dave Tidball joined Windustry in June of 2005 to help expand the number and range of projects with administrative support. Lisa Daniels and Sarah Johnson remain fixtures on the Windustry team.
About the Windustry team

Windustry Membership
Join Windustry today. Help us continue to increase wind energy opportunities for rural landowners and communities and provide sound information and technical support. Becoming a member of Windustry builds a strong base of advocacy for public policy that supports community wind. As a non-profit organization, Windustry depends on the support of foundations, government contracts, and people who use our information and services. If you appreciate our work and would like to support our development, become a member of Windustry today!

Windustry’s Networks Expand
With our growing team of staff and support, Windustry has been able to expand our programs as well:

Home and Farm Windustry
WINDUSTRY HAS ADDED a home and farm-scale wind energy program to our menu of resource offerings. Also known as small wind, this program will focus on technical and policy issues for turbines under 100kW in size. Contact Brian Antonich at 612/870-3465, or visit: www.windustry.org/smallwind

Community Wind Listserv
When we talk about community wind, we are generally describing commercial-scale wind turbines and projects that feature local ownership and participation and are generally larger than 100 kW. To join this active wind discussion group to keep posted on today's most current news and issues surrounding community wind development!

Women of Wind Energy (WOWE) a group of individuals who support and encourage the participation of professional women in the wind energy industry by providing networking opportunities and student sponsorships. WOWE, formed in 2005 and housed at Windustry, has an online listserv and website.

We also maintain our Wind Farmers Network, an online forum for farmers, landowners, and others to ask questions, discuss current issues, and share experiences with wind energy development. Windustry launched the Wind Farmers Network in 2004, and now has over 1,100 members joined in the dialogue. If you would like to join the Wind Farmers Network, visit www.windfarmersnetwork.org, or call Windustry at (612)870-3461 with questions.

Visit Windustry at the Minnesota State Fair
AUGUST 24 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2006.
Windustry will host hands-on and interactive exhibits in the new EcoExperience Building on the State Fair Grounds.
MN State Fair

Wind Energy News

WINDPOWER 2006
Windustry staff joined 5,000 other members of the wind industry in the annual American Wind Energy Association conference. At this year's event, June 5-7 in Pittsburgh, PA, Windustry participated hosted the Community Wind Update Meeting, Women of Wind Energy Networking Luncheon, and participated in the Small Wind Stakeholders Meeting and the Wind Powering America All States Summit. It was a marathon week for Windustry in PA, but we look forward to seeing you all again next year!
AWEA 2006 Conference website

Clean Renewable Energy Bonds
Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are a new financing tool released by the United States Treasury, to provide an incentive for publicly-owned renewable energy projects that do not qualify for federal Production Tax Credits (PTCs). The $800 million available between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2007 is for any governmental entity (including tribal governments) or electric cooperative company that applied by the April 26th, 2006 deadline. Stay tuned to hear how CREBs turn out for public wind energy projects. More information on CREBs at the Environmental Law and Policy Center Site.

Pipestone-Jasper School District, Pipestone, MN: Community Wind Project

Excerpt from Case Study done by

In Fall 2001, the Pipestone- Jasper School District was awarded one of Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund grants to construct a wind turbine. Jack Keers, a Pipestone County Commissioner, and Dan Juhl, a local wind developer, had urged the Pipestone-Jasper School District to apply for a grant to install a wind turbine at the new school to supply part of the school’s electricity needs. The District was ideally positioned and seemed like a perfect fit for a school wind turbine project. The school would be located on a very windy Buffalo Ridge location, funding for the new school was secure, and construction was significantly under budget. With the Renewable Development Fund grant in place, the District must contribute $150,000 toward turbine construction and Xcel Energy contributes the remaining $850,000.

 

Case Study is available on the CERTS website

http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/files/CS-PipestoneJasper_wind.pdf

Proctor High School, Proctor, MN: Community Wind Project

Proctor High School's 20kW turbine went online in October 2006.

Report is from the Minnesota Power "Power of One" Website:

MP helps Park Rapids High harness wind power

"On Friday, Park Rapids High School students and teachers plan to add a new, renewable energy source to the school’s grid-connected distribution system: a wind generator, thanks to help from Minnesota Power.

Park Rapids High Harness Wind Power Workers contracted by Park Rapids High School prepare to "tip up" the wind tower and turbine on school gorunds.The generator sits atop a 100-foot tower and the Jacobs turbine can produce up to 20 kilowatts. Based on local average wind speeds onsite of about 11 miles per hour, its estimated annual output is 25,700 kilowatt-hours.

“In addition to anticipated energy savings, the project helps teachers incorporate information about renewable energy into their curricula, touching on subjects from physics, engineer­ing and chemistry to biology, ecology and meteorology,” said Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) Specialist Dean Talbott. The project also helps prompt classroom discussion on generation sources – from wind, coal and hydro to natural gas, biofuels and nuclear.

Representing MP at the school’s recent celebration of the wind project tower “tip up” were Customer Service Representative Jolynn Nilson, Customer Information Representative Jeneen Klein and Chris Reed of Reed Energy, a contract firm that works closely with MP on renewable energy projects. Other MP person­nel assisting in the project are Engineer Senior Frank Kornbaum and Regional Account Manager Mary Bindewald.

Wind Turbine MP funded similar projects at Proctor High School, Central High School, and for the Mor­rison County Agricultural Society on county fairgrounds in Little Falls. These Community Wind Power Projects are part of MP’s CIP ini­tiatives, through which the Company seeks to provide limited financial incentives for instal­lations of small-scale wind energy projects and conservation improvement within its service territory.

MP’s primary objectives in funding such proj­ects are to: increase public awareness of the importance of efficient energy use and renewable energy technologies – specifically, wind energy; facilitate, through CIP funding grants, public demonstrations of grid-connected, small-scale wind power technology (40 kilowatts or less); and encourage development of real-life working examples of renewable, wind energy technology that reinforce the principles of math and science and that can be integrated into classroom discussions and other public educational opportunities.
In connection with this solicitation of applications, MP seeks to provide CIP funding of up to $20,000 for a qualified, selected wind energy project. Park Rapids High School teachers and students are also pursuing development of an interac­tive, real-time monitoring system to analyze wind resource data, turbine energy production and more.

Bureau Valley School District, Bereau Valley, IL: Community Wind Project

Schoolyards and Wind Turbines: Bureau Valley School District Gets a Turbine

MANLIUS, IL--Locating a power plant in a schoolyard would have probably caused quite an uproar at PTA meetings everywhere a decade ago, but this is 2006 and times have changed. Keith Bolin, a hog farmer from northern Illinois, not only supports the idea, he took the lead in developing such a project in his hometown. Bolin, a father of three and a new grandpa, knows the importance of a good education and a quality school district. That is precisely why he spent two and a half years working to get a 660 kW Vestas wind turbine constructed at Bureau Valley High School.

He and his wife, Barbara, operate an outside farrow-to-finish hog operation in Bureau County and raise corn, oats, and alfalfa. Keith has farmed there since 1978, and he knows the land. He realized how windy it was in his area and started to discuss the possibilities of wind energy with his wife over the dinner table. They began to look into it together and after learning about successful turbines powering schools in Iowa at an American Corn Growers Association Conference in 2000 they were finally convinced that they had a viable site and good match with Bureau Valley High. They began to talk seriously with other people about the idea.

Bolin met Jesper Michaelsen from Vestas at a wind conference in Chicago and got him excited about the project. They applied for their first grant in July of 2002 and received $20,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. They used those funds to hire consultant Jay Haley of EAPC Architects and Engineers to perform their wind resource assessment. Haley did an extensive study of the site and also took advantage of data from Monmouth College and the nearby Crescent Ridge commercial wind farm. That first grant was crucial to get the project moving. The school would never have been able to invest that much money just to see if the project was feasible. But with the study complete, and wind resource data in hand, they were confident that they had a good project and could move forward.

And he continued to lead the way. "I'm just a dirt hog farmer. I'm not the smartest guy on the block," Bolin said, but "somebody had to take the bull by the horns." Bolin views his greatest contribution as a trust builder between the local people of Bureau Valley and the "outsiders, the corporate people" who came to build the turbine. “For a community project, it takes a person or a group that really believes in it to lead and organize and to spur the professionals on. Somebody has to volunteer to be the leader. Paid professionals usually have other obligations - the superintendent has to focus on educating children, the engineer has other projects. That means a volunteer has to keep everything moving.” And keep it moving he did.

Bolin was able to secure an additional $480,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the Illinois Department of Commerce. He and his wife secured financing for the rest. “When it came time to find the term lender, Barb and I shopped around for the best rates on the remainder and ended up getting financing for $450,000 from Union Bank using tax free bonds at a rate of 3.37%.” They were still a little short, but made up the difference with the school’s operation and maintenance fund.

The school planned to use the turbine primarily to offset their electricity generation. Any excess generation will be sold to the local utility at their avoided cost of three cents. “We didn’t really negotiate with the local utility (Illinois Power), they’re just paying us their tariff rate. The real value of our project comes from reducing our electricity costs rather than selling the extra power. This was another reason we chose the 660 kW turbine. For us there’s not much advantage in producing much more electricity than we use. The fastest pay back comes from us not consuming $0.08-0.11/kWhr electricity since we can only sell it at $0.03 or so per kilowatt-hour.” Altogether Bolin expects total revenue for the project to be about $1.6 million. That could increase if the electricity rates go up faster than they estimated, or the turbine lasts longer than the expected 20 years.

The public raised some concerns during the process about noise, construction, and danger to birds in open-forum town meetings, where the turbine's architect, lawyers, and supporters were present to answer questions. Bolin said such consistent, informative communication minimized anxiety and skepticism about the project. "People need to be informed," he said. "They want to know, 'How's it doing?'" He added, "They're pretty proud of what they've done." Eventually, the community embraced the project, said Superintendent Rick Stoecker. “We could have put bleachers out there” during construction, lots of people were watching.”

Once the project was approved, the site was prepared and the turbine was installed in two months. The turbine went on-line in January of 2005, making Bureau Valley High School the first school in the state to install a turbine. In the first seven months of operation, the turbine's computerized records showed that it produced 646,397 kilowatt-hours of energy for the school and consumed only 2,715 for itself. Stoecker estimates that the turbine has saved the school district approximately $100,000 each year. “That’s two teacher’s [salaries] a year,” says Bolin.

The district considers the turbine to be a great way to earn some money, teach students about renewable energy, and help the environment. Bolin's next project was to incorporate the turbine into the school's curriculum, possibly as a business model, an agricultural project, and a study in engineering. Principal Terry Gutshall liked the idea and planned to start with physics class.

The project has inspired many other schools districts to look into wind energy for themselves. Stoecker has had so many calls about the project that he “doesn’t have time to name them all… We’ve had lots and lots of calls.” With so many other districts looking to cut costs around the state, Bureau Valley will create an exhibit and presentation that will be touted at state school board conventions, he said.

"This is probably the most significant thing I've ever done that's made a difference," Stoeker said of the turbine. "I'm real proud of it." Bolin is equally proud and has no regrets. “I would certainly do all this again and I wouldn’t really change much. We’ve tried to involve the community, politicians and the media; it’s been a very positive experience.”

download pdf

Eldora-New Providence Community Schools Community Wind Project

 

Reading, Writing, Wind Energy & Arithmetic Construction of the Eldora-New Providence wind turbine

Case Study: Eldora, Iowa
From his office in the small central Iowa town of Eldora, Eldora-New Providence Community School District Superintendent Bill Grove can see the money his district is saving in energy costs every day by tracking the performance of the wind turbine standing on the grounds of the high school.

The 750 kW NEG Micon turbine was installed last fall after years of talks, negotiations, setbacks and planning with the school board and the local utility. The idea of the Eldora-New Providence school district producing its own electricity from wind power was conceived in the mid-1990s when school officials were brainstorming ways to save money. The first step was a meeting with the local utility, IES Utilities, Inc. (now part of the Madison, WI based Alliant Energy), that turned out to be crucial to the ultimate success of the project. “The utility vice president’s jaw hit the floor when he realized that we weren’t making any demands, just asking if we could all work together. They’re not used to being approached like that and it really set a positive tone that served us all well in the end,” said Grove.

The original plan for the project called for installing a 250 kW turbine at the high school, which would have closely matched the electricity needs of that building, the district’s largest electricity user. However, the first interconnection agreement offered by Alliant would not have produced a positive revenue stream for the school district, creating the first of many hurdles for the project. Eventually, by going through the Iowa Utilities Board, the district secured an arrangement where the wind turbine’s electricity would offset the high school’s electricity use, extra energy would be sold to Alliant at the avoided cost rate, and any additional energy needed by the high school would be purchased from the utility at retail rate.

With the legal issues settled, Grove and the school board hoped to move forward quickly with constructing the wind turbine. They hired wind energy consultant Tom Wind to do a feasibility study and recommend the best site for the turbine. However, the project’s second major obstacle appeared when the district did not receive a single bid for installing a 250 kW machine. They discovered that most wind turbine manufacturers were moving toward larger, more profitable machines and were phasing out the 250 kW turbines.

With all the plans revolving around buying a 250 kW turbine, the project easily could have fallen apart with this setback. However, the spirit of cooperation established in that very first meeting with the utility reemerged to save the project. Alliant offered to allow the Eldora-New Providence schools to use the electricity generated by a larger turbine to offset all of the district’s electricity use, rather than just the high school’s consumption. Grove was careful to point out that the utility might not offer this particular arrangement to everyone, but that the benefits of working cooperatively with the utility for this project could be a lesson for other schools.

With this new agreement, Tom Wind performed a new feasibility study for a 750 kW wind turbine. The numbers still looked favorable for the revised plan, thus in late 2001, the school district tried again to request bids, this time for the larger turbine. The second try proved more fruitful than the first and by March 2002 the district contracted with NEG Micon and had a turbine installed on October 21, 2002.

Grove expects the new turbine to generate enough electricity to offset the entire school district’s electricity bill and sell some power back to the utility. The energy savings and the extra revenue from selling electricity should be more than enough to cover the $97,729 annual loan payment. When the loan is paid off in ten years, all the savings and revenue will simply be extra money for the Eldora-New Providence schools. So far, the turbine is meeting and even exceeding these expectations.

Eldora wind turbine economics
The school district borrowed a total of $800,000 to finance the project– including the cost of the turbine, consultant and attorney fees, interconnection fees, and an extended 5-year warranty– and expects to pay off the loans in ten years. Part of the financing came through a $250,000 no interest loan from the Iowa Energy Bank, an energy management program run by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Energy Bureau. The remaining $550,000 was borrowed from the local Hardin County Savings Bank of Eldora at 5.5 percent interest. A slightly lower rate was available from a Des Moines bank, but the school board felt it was important to support the local business. Combined with the no interest loan, the average annual interest is only 2.1 percent. For the first 5 years, the district will also pay $8,000 for a maintenance contract with NEG Micon, but Grove hopes the district will have its own maintenance crew trained by the end of that time. This low-interest financing package combined with the area’s decent, but not outstanding wind resource made this project economically viable.

Today, the 160 foot tall turbine stands in a field just behind the high school where students and teachers see it every day. The physics class tracks the electricity production and uses the data for projects and to illustrate many ideas and concepts. “We’ve gotten just what we wanted,” said Grove, citing the school’s new role as an innovator in both education and environmental protection. And perhaps even more importantly, he said, “We have an inflation-proof investment for the next 25 years.”

Eldora-New Providence School District is the latest of half a dozen school districts in Iowa to invest in wind energy. Many more schools in Iowa, Minnesota and around the Midwest are exploring using wind power to reduce their energy costs. Grove alone has received more than a dozen inquiries about from other school districts. The Spirit Lake School District in northern Iowa was the pioneer for this kind of project, installing the first of its two wind turbines in 1992. For more information about wind energy and schools or other community-based wind projects, visit www.windustry.org/community.

Turbine Performance Data
The Eldora-New Providence School District is now posting its wind turbine performance data online:

http://www.eldora-np.k12.ia.us/enpdistrict/index.html

Wind Energy News
$23 million available for renewable energy and energy efficiency
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) in April inviting applications for the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grant Program, created in the 2002 farm bill. The program offers grants for renewable energy systems (including wind turbines) to agricultural producers and rural small businesses. The grants can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the cost of an eligible project. Next year the program will be expanded to include loans and loan guarantees if it does not fall victim to budget cuts. More information is available at www.windustry.org/resources/farmbill.htm or by calling your state’s USDA Rural Development Office. The deadline for applications is June 27, 2003.

Minnesota PUC approves Buffalo Ridge area power line
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission significantly advanced wind power in Minnesota by ordering Xcel Energy to proceed with building a new set of power lines and power line upgrades designed to bring wind power from southwestern Minnesota to the Twin Cities. In the March 11th Order, the PUC requires that the timeline for building the power lines match Xcel’s timeline for building wind turbines in the area, ensuring that the power line will be used to carry wind-generated electricity. Another condition requires Xcel to purchase up to 60 MW of wind owned by local farmers, communities and small businesses.

New Midwestern wind projects
Iowa: Iowa’s largest utility, Mid-American Energy, announced plans to build a 310 MW wind project in the state, which would be the largest land-based wind farm in the world.

North Dakota: Fergus Falls, Minnesota-based Otter Tail Power announced plans to purchase 21 MW of wind power capacity from a project to be owned by FPL Energy and built near Kulm, North Dakota by the end of 2003.

South Dakota : The first Native-American owned utility-scale wind turbine was installed on the Rosebud-Sioux reservation in South Dakota February 27, 2003.

November Conference Proceedings Now Available
Audio recordings, presentation visuals and links to additional information are available for nearly all of the 90 presentations made at Wind Energy: New Economic Opportunities conference in November: www.windustry.org/conference/proceedings.

Wind Energy Workshops/Events
May 18-21, 2003, Austin, Texas: WINDPOWER. The American Wind Energy Association's annual conference. Visit www.awea.org or call 202-383-2500.

June 19, 2003 – Oklahoma Wind Power and Bioenergy Conference, Norman, Oklahoma. For more information, contact Kylah Kissinger at 405-447-8412 or windgirl@ou.edu or visit www.seic.okstate.edu/owpi.

June 20-22, 2003 – Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, Custer, Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.the-mrea.org or contact the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at (715) 592-6595 or info@the-mrea.org.

About Windustry
Windustry builds collaborations and provides technical support to create an understanding of wind energy opportunities for economic development. Windustry recently incorporated as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, but remains partnered with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, another non-profit that promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

Wind Farmers Network
The Wind Farmers Network now has financial support for development in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Watch www.windustry.org for more information in the coming months. The purpose of this initiative is to bring together a broad range of landowners, farmers and ranchers to exchange their experiences in wind development and educate others who would like to begin farming the wind. If you would like to join the network, please send your contact information and a brief sentence describing your wind energy interests to Windustry or join online at www.windustry.org/about/join.htm. Your information only may be shared within the network.

The Eldora-New Providence Community Schools installed a 750 kW wind turbine in October 2002. PDF gile of this study is online in the Spring 2003 Newsletter or visit the school's website.

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