Schools Experience Benefits of Wind Energy Firsthand

Nov. 7, 2012

Audio with Ruth Douglas Miller, Kansas State University Wind Applications Center director and Darin Headrick, Greensburg, Kansas schools superintendent (MP3 2.8 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:01.

The Wind Applications Center at Kansas State University oversees school wind projects across Kansas. The school district in Greensburg, Kansas is one of those with a wind turbine. Superintendent Darin Headrick says the district looked at every aspect of the project to see how it might benefit the district.

"For us, it would be a good situation even if all it produced is exactly what its cost was. We still aren't out anything. We still have produced as much power by dollars as what it cost us to put it up. In case of our 50-kilowatt tower we have, we think we're going to do a little bit better than twice our investment. So our $300,000 investment for wind, we should see a revenue of about $700,000 of production of power. So it's really just a matter of having some cash on hand and knowing it's a good business decision, and then putting it in place. In fact, it's such a good decision for us, we're considering adding a second tower because it does provide some savings for us."

Wind Applications Center director Ruth Douglas Miller says there are nearly 25 projects now and those projects are typically funded by various entities, but the school usually covers the cost of the actual turbine and the tower. In recent years, USDA even has provided some grants for school wind projects. Miller says having a school wind turbine is very valuable in many ways. For one thing, she says it helps the entire community understand more about wind energy.

"We really were hoping to inspire students, to say 'This is really cool. We've got this turbine. I know a little bit about it. I would like to pursue a career in the wind industry.' I can't say we've had gobs of students end up going in that direction, but we've had a few, and it's really exciting to talk to a student who when he was in 8th grade helped write the proposal to me to put the turbine up. And then I see him again in the summer and he says 'I really want to go into wind. I want to be an engineer.' He just needed that motivation to push him through some of those tougher classes."

Headrick says wind turbines have become a staple in the community.

"It's something that's always on our landscape. It's something that we see. It's something that I think we sometimes take for granted. But I do know that we understand that it's a way for us to produce power, to produce power efficiently, and more importantly, to produce power that's green and renewable and responsible to our environment. But when you ask about students and the parents and how they see it, I think it's something they appreciate. I also think it's something that we've become accustomed to living here."

Headrick says he believes the school district has become an advocate of recognizing the obligation to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. The initial, additional cost upfront, Headrick says, saves a lot of money in the end and the school is seeing that firsthand. He says the school's investment in sustainable, green, renewable energy is not just responsible because it uses taxpayer dollars more efficiently but also because it's an additional educational aspect for the students.