The wind turbine, standing 110 meters tall, is the newest chapter in St. Olafs push for sustainability. Planning and construction began in 2005 after receiving a $1.5 million grant from Excel Energys Renewable Development Fund. The remaining balance of $400,000, was paid by the college with the knowledge that the turbine was a wise investment in the future.
St. Olaf uses some where around eighteen million kilowatt-hours of energy every year. The wind turbine will produce six million kilowatt-hours of energy, contributing nearly one third of the schools annual energy. According to Pete Sandberg, director of facilities, there will be times over the winter when the whole campus will be powered solely by wind.
"Thats what I think is the coolest about this whole thing," Sandberg said
Statistics prove that the turbine will be an invaluable resource for the college, and although St. Olaf is not the first college to own a utility-grade wind turbine, its new turbine offers an ecological improvement.
Unlike Carleton, St. Olaf already has in place an electric loop distribution system, part of a diesel generator system installed in 1999 to help reduce rates on electricity. For this reason, St. Olaf is able to use energy straight from the field, while Carleton must first sell their wind power to a utility company and then purchase it back.
Many students had wondered about the delay in construction, as the turbine just began spinning Monday evening. Among some of the hypotheses around campus were that the windmill was damaged by hail or built at an incorrect angle to catch the wind. Sandberg said that, although significantly less exciting than the aforementioned rumors, construction was delayed due to a missing wiring component.
In an attempt to deter break-ins and vandalism, various security measures have been put into place. The tower is comprised of heavy steel plates combining to weigh 106 metric tons. At the bottom of the tower is a locked door which, when triggered, sounds an alarm. After triggering the alarm, the stability mechanisms shut down within two minutes causing the tower to sway and making the ladder perilous to climb.
St. Olaf is not alone in its appreciation of wind power. According to a Monday article in The New York Times, "Wind power is one of the fastest-growing clean-energy sectors worldwide." St. Olaf's Black, Gold and Green website defines sustainability as "the art of ever after, the art of assuring that people in the future will have what they need to lead fulfilling lives."