LIBERTY, NY — To convince people that a wind turbine for the Liberty Central School District is a good idea, Malcolm Brown likes to talk about line loss. When electricity is generated far away from …
LIBERTY, NY — To convince people that a wind turbine for the Liberty Central School District is a good idea, Malcolm Brown likes to talk about line loss. When electricity is generated far away from a customer and is carried over wires to the customer, there is always a certain amount of line loss, or electricity that never makes it to the customer’s facility.
In the case of the Liberty school district, the amount of line loss is nearly 10%, and in 2013 the cost to taxpayers was $12,097. To Brown, it doesn’t make sense that taxpayers should pay for electricity that the district never uses, and if the district were to receive all, or nearly all, of its electricity from a nearby wind turbine, that would nearly eliminate line loss.
Brown, who founded the radio station WJFF and who was instrumental in the growth of community-owned wind turbines in Hull, MA, has been advocating for a turbine for the district for months, and on October 16, Wes Slaymaker, president of Wind Energy Systems, gave a presentation to a small group of residents and interested parties at the library and media center at the high school.
Slaymaker said that the goal of the project is to build a wind turbine that will then be leased, with the leasing entity selling electricity to the school at a reduced rate. One outfit that might lease it is called United Wind, which says on its website it “is the only company that has the knowledge and capability to offer the first ever little-to-no money down leasing option to small wind customers in the United States.” The company is focused mostly on projects in New York State and has 37 lease projects underway.
Slaymaker said that being a non-profit, the school can’t take advantage of tax incentives for wind projects in the way that United Wind could.
The district uses about two million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, and the size of the turbine being considered would generate just about that much power. Slaymaker said that from an economic point of view it doesn’t make sense to generate more power than the school would use because selling electricity back into the grid brings a lower price.
Slaymaker said he is considering several locations for the wind turbine, including one on the ridge behind the golf course on Route 25, and another one off Revonah Hill Road. He said it would not be feasible to put the turbine near the high school, because the school is located at a lower altitude than the other locations being considered and would therefore generate less electricity.
He said the average annual speed of the wind at one of the sites being considered was about 15 mph, while the speed of the wind at the high school might be half that amount or less. He said more wind is available in fall, winter and spring when students are in school, and less in the summer when they are not.
To get the electricity from the turbine to the school buildings, a line would be run under village roads and thus would require cooperation between the landowner, village officials and the school board, and the formation of some sort of entity that would actually own the turbine. That entity, however, would not bear any of the risk of owning the turbine, which would fall to the leaseholder.
Slaymaker said that down the road, repairs to the turbine would be needed, and those repairs and maintenance would be built into the budget.
Lisa Daniel, who founded the non-profit wind-advocacy group “Windustry” 18 years ago in Minneapolis, said the turbine could be worked into the curriculum of the schools. Brown said the turbine would be a source of community pride, as the ones in Hull, MA are.
William Silver, the superintendent of the school district, said he is interested in the proposal, “In part because it’s an interesting and unique project, and in part because it has the potential to save us money on our operational cost every year. But I still think it’s a work in progress, and we’ll have to see how Malcolm Brown and Wes Slaymaker make out in talking with the state agencies about rebates,” and whether local elected officials are interested in the effort.
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