AKRON — Driving along SR 19 between Mentone and Akron, one almost immediately notices something different — a giant wind turbine
Valley installed its turbine in fall, 2011. Over a four-year period, from Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2015, it produced 6,071,985 kilowatt hours of electricity. TVSC Superintendent Brett Boggs explained what this means.
“We currently pay about nine cents per kWh for the electricity we purchase from Kosciusko REMC,” Boggs said. “So, if the wind turbine had not been producing our electricity, this would have been an expense of $546,461.82.”
As of the end of January this year, the turbine had produced 193,501 kWh of electricity.
While this may sound like a lot, Boggs noted that the turbine has not necessarily produced what the school corporation originally anticipated.
“It was projected to produce about 70 percent of the electricity consumed in the middle school/high school campus,” Boggs said. “During this four-year period, production has been in the 50 to 60 percent range.”
Still, according to Boggs, the turbine is accomplishing its purpose.
“The cost of purchasing electricity comes primarily from the general fund,” he said. “Because we are now generating a good percentage of our own electricity, this has provided relief for the general fund, allowing those dollars to be used in support of school programs and services.”
As with any piece of machinery, there are costs involved with operating and maintaining the turbine. Over the aforementioned four-year period, Boggs said, these costs and the energy savings have, for the most part, equaled out.
Anticipating future increases in the cost of electricity, Boggs believes this will result in increased savings.
While data shows the turbine producing electricity nearly every day, there are times when the blades are not rotating, even when the wind is blowing. This, Boggs said, can be due to a number of factors.
“It is a complex piece of machinery and automatically shuts down for several reasons, such as when there is icing on the blades, the wind shifts directions or we experience strong gusts of wind,” Boggs said. “It will often shut down temporarily, then begin turning again when the issue has passed.”
Summertime, he added, is not as productive due to decreased winds.
“Extreme heat will also occasionally cause the wind turbine to shut down for brief periods of time,” Boggs said. “The first year of production, a lightning strike damaged a couple of the motors that control the angles of the blades.”
He added that the motors were replaced and improvements were made to the turbine’s lightning protection system.
“Since that time, lightning strikes have not been an issue,” Boggs said.
For the most part, Boggs said, feedback on the turbine has been positive.
“Many in the community have expressed pride and gratitude that Tippecanoe Valley is a forward-thinking, progressive school district, setting an example for students and the community by taking full advantage of an alternative source of energy to power its schools,” he said. “TVSC Director of Maintenance Todd Glenn is always looking for ways to reduce our energy costs. The installation of LED lighting at three of our schools has already resulted in significant savings.”
He added that TVSC is also looking into solar energy options.