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ISSUE 118 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/11/2005

Wind plans move ahead

By Lauren Radomski
Advertising Manager

Friday, March 11, 2005

After a brief delay, plans are back in motion for the construction of a wind turbine at St. Olaf.

The turbine, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Fund, was to be completed this spring. However, due to complications in the grant process, St. Olaf will not be seeing the turbine until this time next year.

In addition, there has been a recent surge in demand for turbines. According to Pete Sandberg, assistant vice president for facilities, a federal tax break on renewable energy projects was approved as an attachment to a recent piece of legislation.

"When that happened," he said, "many commercial wind projects that were dependent on this $.015 per kilowatt hour payment took off while we were still waiting for final approval, and now the wait for a new order is nearly a year."

Sandberg, who has been the main force behind the St. Olaf turbine’s development, acknowledges the involvement of others in the evolution of the project. Students and faculty explored the idea of a turbine through research and class discussions. Support also came from Renew Northfield, a non-profit organization started by one of the college librarians, Bruce Anderson, to advocate local sources of renewable energy.

"Many of us have been looking for ways to reduce the carbon impact of the campus, and this [the turbine] is one of the best ways," Sandberg said.

Instead of being sold to the utility company, the electricity generated by the wind turbine will be used directly on campus.

Sandberg explained that the turbine will be 41 percent efficient, meaning that the wind on campus "is adequate to get 41 percent of the total potential power that the turbine could generate if the wind blew at a certain rate all of the time."

Generally 40 percent is considered to be very good, and 41 percent is unusual for the Northfield area.

The turbine is expected to generate 5.8 million of the 18 million kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity consumed annually by the campus.

Sandberg predicts that the turbine will cut St. Olaf’s carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent and save the school about $200,000.

However, he also cautioned that the turbine’s presence is not an excuse for waste.

"All this does not mean we have free electricity and don’t have to be careful about consumption," he said. "We need the savings to help make the whole college work as well as it can."

Sandberg added that using extra power would not be in the spirit of St. Olaf's goal of a greener campus. "If we ratcheted up our consumption to 5,000,000 kwh just because it looks like we could, that would actually be a negative impact on overall effort," he said.

The turbine will sit in a field about a quarter mile west of Ytterboe Hall. Work on the turbine’s wiring, foundation and connection to the campus system will occur over the summer, Sandberg said, ensuring that everything will be ready to go when the turbine arrives.

The wind turbine project is one of several environmentally friendly initiatives at St. Olaf. According to Anderson, the turbine serves as "a symbol of St. Olaf’s commitment to being a sustainable campus."

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