Breaking News Bar
posted: 10/13/2011 5:00 AM

Cooperation inherits, uses the wind

Success - Article sent! close
Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's always good to see a good idea move forward, even if slowly.

Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, Keeneyville Elementary District 20 and Prospect Heights Elementary District 23 first announced plans more than a year ago to join together and use a downstate wind farm to help them reduce their energy costs.

This week, District 300 kept the proposal moving forward with the first reading of a resolution authorizing the consortium to negotiate a 20-year agreement to purchase wind energy.

The consortium was made possible through 2010 legislation designed to encourage school districts to experiment with renewable energy sources as a means of saving money. Under its agreement with Invenergy, the company that operates the wind farm about 50 miles southeast of Rock Island, the consortium will purchase energy for the next 20 years at an expected fixed cost of $56.80 per megawatt hour.

Together, the three districts expect to reap savings of about $7 million -- and District 300, with the lion's share of the usage, will account for about $6.2 million of that. It's not going to answer all the districts' financial worries, but it is a nice bit of savings that can be directed not at keeping the lights on but at energizing and teaching kids.

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

It will be interesting to watch in coming years to see how well the actual savings match projections, and it's important to note that it is from assertive ventures like this that the value of innovations are determined. Without them, we never make progress or see real, tangible savings.

Moreover, this project adds another feature that is sure to be more beneficial as everyone's economic circumstances become more complicated in coming years -- cooperation.

The School Wind Consortium Joint Action Renewable Energy Agency, as this project is officially known, will offer important insights to other school districts and governing bodies about the merits of experimenting with alternative energy sources. But it will also teach us all something about the merits of combining resources and efforts to operate more efficiently.

Schools and governments throughout the suburbs are increasingly finding ways to manage costs by sharing them, and this project will go a long way toward showing the challenges and advantages for governing bodies that undertake cooperative ventures.

District 300 expects to take final action on its resolution in a couple of weeks, with the agreement set between the full consortium and Invenergy by Dec. 1. It will be an exciting project to watch.