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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

Sustainable power harnessed: Xcel approves $1.5 million wind energy grant

By Michael Williamson
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 17, 2004

As most students have recognized by now, it gets windy up here on campus. Though the wind can sometimes prove bothersome, it will soon serve as a means to power St. Olaf. Starting this spring, the wind will be harnessed to generate electricity. Xcel Energy recently announced St. Olaf was a recipient of a $1.5 million grant to construct a 1.65-megawatt wind-turbine.

According to Pete Sandberg, director of facilities, the benefits of wind power are clear.

With our wind resource, we project that it will produce about 6,000,000 kilowatt hours of energy, or about one-third of our annual consumption, Sandberg said.

Since one-third of the colleges energy will now comes from the near constant wind, more money will be available for the college to spend in the classroom or on student activities.

The college will only need to pay for about 10 percent of the total construction of the turbine, since the Xcel grant will cover the remaining 90 percent of the upfront costs associated with its construction. Any costs incurred to St. Olaf by the construction of the tower will come out of the colleges capital budget.

Though the college will be saving money with the new wind tower, it will not make money from the construction of the turbine as Carleton College intends to make a profit, with their recently completed tower, by selling power to Xcel. Sandberg noted that extra permits would be needed in order for the college to sell any energy produced by the wind turbine.

Many other positives will result from the construction of the new renewable energy source. Because wind will be replacing other non-renewable sources of energy the college will produce one-fourth less carbon.

Moreover, the use of renewable sources ties into the colleges ongoing goal of becoming a greener campus as many people on campus are exploring new ways for the campus community to become greater stewards of our environment.

The new wind turbine will be located in one of two places on the colleges property. Originally St. Olafs property in Dakota County was discussed as a possible site. Recently, however, the shift has moved away from that site and moved closer to campus. A site just a few hundred yards west of Ytterboe Hall now seems feasible. Both are options at this time.

The project needs to be discussed and approved by the colleges Environmental Concerns/Land Use committee, chaired by Gene Bakko, professor of biology, and the Presidents Cabinet. From there, permits will need to be obtained before construction commences.

If all goes according to plan, Sandberg hopes to have preliminary work begin this fall and continue through the winter, with the hope that the turbine can be completed by mid-February.

However, the construction timeline depends on ideal conditions, in obtaining the necessary permits, and the weather.





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