How to Fund a Wind for Schools Project
Funding school wind installations can be challenging, but many schools have successfully secured funding to install turbines and implement curricula. The following examples of methods used to fund Wind for Schools projects may be useful for anyone researching funding wind turbine installations at schools. The Wind for Schools Funding Spreadsheet provides more examples of school turbine costs and mechanisms utilized to fund the projects.
In addition to funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, many Wind for Schools projects have received federal grants. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) is available for rural public entities and has been used to partially fund Wind for Schools projects in Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska. For more information on the USDA RBEG, visit the USDA website.
Federal partnerships are another way to fund installations. The U.S. Coast Guard recently partially funded Wind for Schools projects in Alaska by donating wind turbines or by providing significant in-kind assistance with the planning and installation.
In the case of Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska, not only did the U.S. Coast Guard provide the turbine and assistance, but they also provided the land on which the project is located. The U.S. Coast Guard’s Cutter Maple Moorings facility is located next to the Mt. Edgecumbe High School campus. By locating the project there, the Coast Guard could use the power produced by the turbine to bring the organization closer to its renewable energy goals. The Coast Guard is currently investigating the possibility of acquiring additional turbines to install at schools near other bases in Alaska.
In Colorado, the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) provided significant funding for Wind for Schools projects. Each of the eight projects installed in 2009-2010 received a $5,000 grant from the GEO to help purchase and install turbines. Although all state energy offices may not be able to provide similar funding, they may be useful contacts for locating other available resources.
Another state-level resource is the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). SEPs have funded Wind for Schools projects in Nebraska and Idaho. SEP funding comes from DEQ enforcement actions in individual states. In settling environmental enforcement cases, violators must achieve and maintain compliance with environmental laws and regulations and, as appropriate, pay civil penalties. In certain cases, SEPs may be included in the settlement to further the goals of protecting and enhancing public health and the environment. Contact your state’s DEQ for more information on SEP funds.
Local utilities have provided funds for Wind for Schools projects. In Idaho, schools have received funding through the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky Grant Program. In Kansas, Westar Energy has provided funds to complete school installations.
NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakotas Utilities offer funds for Montana Wind for Schools applications through the Universal System Benefits (USB) program. One goal of this program is to encourage the development of renewable energy projects by funding $2 per watt (maximum $10,000 per customer) for Montana small-scale wind projects.
Many large businesses have philanthropic divisions within their companies that offer grants. In Idaho, two schools received funding from the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant program. Another possible option is the Coca-Cola Foundation.
Wind Industry Partnerships
Wind industry developers have funded Wind for Schools projects. In Arizona, NextEra Energy has provided funds for projects. In South Dakota, FPL Energy, Babcock & Brown, and Iberdrola Renewables each pledged $10,000 to help support Wind for Schools projects.
Although not direct funding, in-kind donations provide an opportunity to lower project costs. Schools have utilized in-kind donations for equipment, electrical work, foundation excavation, and other installation-related labor.
At Midway Middle School and Rigby High School in Kansas, in-kind donations included H&H Utility Contractors Inc., who provided a small crane, bucket truck, and crew to pull wire through existing conduit and to erect the towers and turbines. Aldon Hanson donated the rebar and the forms for the foundation. Tupper Excavation donated digging and trenching equipment and labor to run the conduit, and Curtis Electric donated electrical labor.
Local funding may be available at the county, city, town, or community levels. For example, the Faith School District in South Dakota utilized an alumni grant to partially fund their project.