Dist. 300 nixes plan for using wind power

 
 
Updated 2/13/2012 11:27 PM

A proposal to harness wind energy as a source of revenue for three local school districts has been deflated.

Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300 and other members of the School Wind Consortium Joint Action Renewable Energy Agency, also known as the SWCA, have dropped plans to purchase and sell energy produced by wind turbines leased from an existing wind farm. The consortium also includes Keeneyille Elementary District 20 and Prospect Heights Elementary District 23.

 

"After many months of investigating every possibility for utilizing renewable energy to generate revenues to offset our electrical energy expenses, while creating an educational opportunity for our students, we have determined the feasibility for funding any such venture without upfront investment does not exist," District 300 Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Crates said in a memo to the school board.

Instead, the consortium will take advantage of current electricity rates, which are the lowest they have been in the past decade.

In January, the district approved a contract with Baltimore-based Constellation Energy, The company is the district's current provider for electricity and natural gas, said David Ulm, the district's director of buildings, grounds and energy management.

In the past, Ulm said, the power company could only provide energy sales over four years. But the company will now offer the consortium energy sales over eight years.

Ulm said the new plan will save the district about $300,000 annually.

Currently, the district pays about $3 million per year for electricity, split equally between distribution fees and power consumption, Ulm said.

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The district will use blend pricing that ensures long-term security and allows the district to enjoy the low prices that are available right now.

Under the contract, District 300 locked in 25 percent of its eight-year term at a fixed rate of $.044 per kilowatt hour, 10 percent for three years at $.037 per kilowatt hour and 5 percent for two years at $.035 per kilowatt hour.

In addition, the districts can develop price triggers to lock in cheaper rates if the energy market starts an upward trend. Each district has its own contract with Constellation New Energy.

The district's current rate is $.055 per kilowatt hour.

While the original project was positively received, the complexity of the plan did not make financial sense, Crates said. The district would have bought the energy in one place and sold it in another, requiring a third party to complete the transaction, Crates said.

"There was a problem with buying the energy on one grid and selling it on another grid," she said.

The wind consortium originally sought to build a wind turbine downstate. Then in December, the consortium was set to sign a 20-year agreement with Chicago-based Invenergy to lease wind turbines at its wind farm in Henry County. That deal fell apart due to a clause that would prevent the district from opting out if a better deal became available during that time.

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