Prior to their decision next Monday, the Clay Central-Everly school board wanted to give the Royal and Everly communities a chance to ask questions and offer comment on the widely-debated decision regarding the wind turbine near the elementary school.
The current turbine, refurbished and installed in 1996, was shut off in June and will need to be replaced with an exact, remanufactured model in order for the agreement with Alliant Energy to continue.
The current agreement, established in 1996, allows the district to first offset its utility usage using the energy produced by the turbine. Any extra energy produced may be sold back to Alliant for a price of $0.06 per kWh. The district has 17 years left to this 33-year agreement.
"You're not going to find this kind of agreement again," Mike Prior, with First Priority Consultants, said. "Now, you'd be lucky to get $0.04 per kWh."
In its first five months of production, from September 1996 to January 1997, the current turbine made the district $1,933.62.
To replace the current turbine with an exact, remanufactured model would cost the district between $100,000 and $125,000. The district would use Capital Projects money for the project. The money saved from the turbine's production, and the money gained from overproduction, would affect the General Fund.
According to Harold Prior, a consultant the district had been working with who was not at Monday's meeting, the remanufactured turbine would pay itself off in approximately 7 to 10 years, not including a $2,500 annual maintenance cost.
At its maximum, Mike Prior expects the remanufactured turbine to produce 160,000 kWh per year, more than the approximate 111,000 kWhs the school used in the last 12 months.
The community's main concern was that the turbine would not pay itself off in a feasible amount of time. Board President Scott Rinehart echoed that concern.
"We haven't seen reasonable proof from anyone that this turbine can run 25 years without a problem," Rinehart said. "My biggest fear is that it will run for three to four years and then die out again."
Former Board President Sue Brugman noted the conception that the current turbine didn't pay for itself was misunderstood.
"When it was running, the current turbine covered approximately 40 percent of the district's combined utility costs," Brugman said. "We can't see this as apples and apples, counting only money returned towards the cost of the unit. It's apples and oranges."
"We have to look at the alleviation on the General Fund," Superintendent Dennis McClain said. "Categorical money, such as the Capital Projects Fund or PPEL, is often limited in how we can spend it. There aren't many limitations on the General Fund. We can't pay teachers or buy textbooks with Capital Project Funds, but we can with the money we save on utility costs in the General Fund."
McClain estimated the district has $500,000 in its Capital Projects fund. While the money has no expiration, the district is also looking ahead to projects they need to meet the requirements from the American Disabilities Act, including an elevator in each building. One elevator costs approximately $500,000.
"We have to ask ourselves where we are now, where we want to be, and how we want to get there," McClain said.
Problems with the current turbine include the pitch of blades, which are at an angle not conducive for producing the maximum amount of energy.
Prior noted in his presentation that three vendors are interested in replacing the turbine with a remanufactured version. Another option, he said, was to take the turbine down and sell it for scrap metal. To remove the unit, he said, would cost the district $19,500. Shine Bros. Corp estimated the scrap metal could be purchased for $4,100.
Whether the district chooses to replace the existing turbine or to tear it down, McClain noted that the district would need to make a decision about what to do with it.
"The problem with letting it sit there is that it would null the contract with Alliant," Prior said.
"On a personal level, things that sit around tend to wear down and fall apart. I don't want a piece of the turbine to fall down and hurt someone, especially a kid," McClain added. "We need to be responsible and do something."