West Central School Corporation representatives and student leaders, as well as parents and members of the press, were present to celebrate the start of construction on the school’s utility-grade wind turbine project. A ceremonial breaking of the ground was planned for Friday, Sept. 30 at 9:30 a.m., but because of rain, the ceremony was held inside the auxiliary gymnasium and Superintendent Charles Mellon wisely decided against digging a hole in the gym floor to commemorate the occasion.
All the same, the groundbreaking ceremony was a success. Mellon gave a brief recap of the two-year history of the project, dating back to December 2009. While attending a Northern Indiana Educational Services Center meeting which included a concept presentation by Performance Services, Mellon noticed that the Francesville area was shaded very similarly to White County and Benton County areas that had wind farms.
This huge decision was not taken lightly. A study for the possibility of the project was conducted and presented to the board on May 20, 2010, which stated that West Central had the third highest ranking wind source that had been tested by the company. Soon after, a review committee was formed, which soon asked for and received assistance from two West Central graduates that had later earned engineering degrees. On Feb. 3, 2011, Performance Services was selected as the company to be recommended to the school board.
“This is a very unique project, one that will gather a lot of attention. It seems that if you stick something a couple hundred feet in the air, it gets a lot of attention. And I feel that this benefit of attention to the community is that it shows our dedication to offering many opportunities to the children here of WC as well as those that may wish to move here and live in our comm and those who might like to transfer here,” said Jeff Tanner, president of the West Central Board of School Trustees.
At this point, no commitment was made, but soon Performance Services was hired as a contractor for the project on April 3. In the contract, four contingencies were listed: The Feed-in-Tariff was needed to be approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, a connection point needed to be established that was acceptable between NIPSCO and the school, they need an affordable cost of insurance and they needed a favorable bond rate.
By building this 321-foot high, 900 kW, three-blade wind turbine on school property, the corporation hopes to be able to maintain the existing tax rate. The project is designed to pay for itself and, at the same time, significantly reduce the cost of energy at the schools. Over 25 years, the project is expected to generate over $2.9 million after all project-related costs.
The project will also include an increase in renewable energy curriculum. A K-12 curriculum map, lesson plans, and other unique learning opportunities will be made available for K-12 students. The wind turbine project will offer them a chance to learn and explore renewable energy firsthand.