No wind turbines for Aurora police station

Updated 3/22/2011 10:20 PM

Wind turbines are not likely to be spinning outside the Aurora Police Department's headquarters anytime soon.

The city council Tuesday night sent back to the finance committee a proposal to use $213,500 in federal funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to install turbines near a bike path on the police station's property.


The finance committee will look into applying the funding toward a different project or projects that can get started before April 15, the day the grant expires, Chief Management Officer Carie Anne Ergo said.

The proposed turbines would have provided 6,000 kilowatts of energy a year -- one twentieth of a percent of the energy necessary to power the police station, according to estimates alderman received last week from Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure of Chicago.

With power at a cost of 8 cents a kilowatt, the turbines would save the city $576 a year in rebates from ComEd, which pays for the police station's power under a contract with the city. And with a project cost of $213,500, the city decided that amount of savings was not enough.

"When we looked at the numbers, it was not a project that we felt made the best use of the energy efficiency block grant funds," Ergo said.

Alderman Rick Lawrence said he was glad the project is not moving forward. He said the situation almost became a case of a consulting and engineering firm using the "green" craze to exploit taxpayers by suggesting a project with little real value.

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But Ergo said the city saw value in the project beyond dollars and cents. The turbines also could have encouraged other Aurora businesses to pursue emerging renewable energy technologies and educated students at nearby Simmons Middle School about sustainability.

"What we usually tell people who ask us about small turbines, if the only reason is that they want to make money, save money, then they might want to look at it closely to see if it will meet expectations," said Fred Iutzi, program manager for sustainable development at the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, which has conducted wind speed studies across the state.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which provides grants for turbine installation, also prioritizes small wind projects that have educational or outreach aspects other than their power generation abilities, said Gabriela Martin, who reviews grant applications for the foundation.

Alderman Abby Schuler, who sits on the finance committee and whose ward includes the police station property, said it's unfortunate the wind turbine project will not be moving forward. She said she supported the idea for both its renewable energy and educational aspects.

"It would have been a nice generation of our green philosophy," Schuler said. "I want the best return for the money."