Our View: Wind turbine would offer a tangible lessonIt's a simple truth that schools exist to prepare society for the future, playing not only a role in their students' futures, but in the futures of those who will depend on them.
It's a simple truth that schools exist to prepare society for the future, playing not only a role in their students' futures, but in the futures of those who will depend on them.
Right now, School District 833 officials are looking at a new way to plan for the future — and it doesn't involve the transfer of knowledge.
They will decide this spring whether to invest in an electricity-generating wind turbine on the site of East Ridge High School in Woodbury.
At a time when many experts predict an energy crisis is looming, we could think of few better ways to plan for the school's future energy and financial needs than by harnessing the power of a clean, free power source.
With an estimated price tag of $1.5 million, the turbine won't be cheap. But neither will the school's energy bill.
Many schools in the Midwest have begun using wind power and found their initial investment in equipment was paid off relatively quickly in energy savings and revenues from excess energy.
The school district in Spirit Lake, Iowa, installed its first wind turbine in 1993 on an elementary school campus. It paid off its loan on the structure in four years, and since 1998 it has made between $20,000 and $25,000 in revenues from selling back electricity to the local energy company, according to ICLEI, an international group of local governments advocating for sustainability. The district installed a second turbine and expects to be able to power its five-building campus with the wind.
Carleton College in Northfield installed a $1.8 million wind turbine in 2004. The school connected the turbine with the electrical grid, and it sells back all of the energy produced to Xcel Energy. The money it gets from the energy company, combined with grants and production incentives from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, will allow the school to pay off the turbine in 10 to 12 years according to the school's Web site.
There are many grants and incentives available that will help the district offset the initial cost of the turbine, and we encourage the district to fervently seek out those funding sources.
We have no doubt that the turbine will be financially viable, but even if it weren't, we'd still favor building it for a couple of reasons. First, wind energy is a non-polluting energy source. No smoke is blown into the air, no land is mined, no nuclear waste is created. Second, energy is not getting any cheaper. As time goes on, and prices go up, a turbine will become viable even if it isn't at this time.
And that money that doesn't go toward energy costs can go toward classroom supplies, books, teacher salaries and field trips.
So, in that respect, maybe a wind turbine does involve the transfer of knowledge after all.
It would stand as a tangible lesson about the kind of technology they'll be seeing a lot more of in the future.