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posted: 10/12/2011 6:00 AM

Dist. 300 board likes wind energy plan

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Action taken Tuesday by the Community Unit District 300 school board could eventually bring wind energy to the district.

The first reading of a resolution authorizing a three-district consortium to negotiate and enter into a 20-year agreement to purchase wind energy from a Chicago-based company passed without hesitation from board members.

The proposal, however, did meet resistance from one district resident who questioned the district's ability to oversee and maintain the project.

"The project is outside of the core competencies of the district," said Mike Tennis, a Sleepy Hollow resident. "The core competency of the district is education."

Tennis questioned the financial obligation to taxpayers and whether anyone in the district possesses the expertise to oversee construction and maintenance of the wind turbine.

Dave Ulm, supervisor for facilities and energy management, addressed many of Tennis' questions during the presentation of the resolution.

"We are not investing any money upfront," Ulm said. "It is a contract with the wind farm to buy electricity produced."

School board member Dave Alessio said the district is looking for ways to save money.

"In the end the school district cannot be running a wind farm," Alessio said. "What we do do is purchase power. ... We want to save money into the future so that we can focus on education."

The resolution allows the School Wind Consortium Joint Action Renewable Energy Agency, also known as SWCA, to purchase wind energy from Invenergy on behalf of the district. The consortium also includes Keeneyville Elementary District 20 and Prospect Heights Elementary District 23.

Estimates suggest the three districts would save about $7 million in energy costs over 20 years. District 300 is responsible for about 90 percent of the energy used and district officials expect the district to save about $6.2 million over the 20 years.

Invenergy owns a wind farm in Bishop Hill, about 50 miles southeast of Rock Island. The proposal is for a 20-year purchase agreement of renewable energy with a fixed price of $56.80 per megawatt hour. The district expects to purchase about 28,000 megawatt hours per year.

The District 300 school board will take final action on the resolution at its Oct. 24 board meeting. A final agreement between the consortium and Invenergy is expected before Dec. 1.

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