A-W wind turbine removal may become budget item

Posted September 26, 2019 at 10:00 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

What will it cost to remove the Akron-Westfield’s inoperable wind turbine from its site?

According to A-W School Board Member Nick Mathistad, about $220,000:

• $183,000 for disassembly and disposal of the wind turbine; and

• $37,000 for foundation removal/disposal, dirt fill and seeding of site.

“These are budget numbers, and the scope of work would be bid out at a later date if it comes to that,” Mathistad explained in a text to The Akron Hometowner.

The wind turbine hasn’t been operational since the gear boxed failed in 2009.

Wind Turbine History

The wind turbine was originally projected to provide an additional $87,000 annually in revenue for the school district, according to a report then Business Manager Jodi Thompson gave to the school board in December 2008, reviewing its nearly 10 years of operation.

For its first 10 years of operation, the district would have annual loan payments of approximately $85,000. But after the loans were paid off, the wind turbine was to generate the equivalent of about two teachers’ salaries per year.

Original feasibility studies conducted by the late Ron Wilmot, who was the high school science teacher, and his students, were based on the original agreement between the City of Akron and the Akron-Westfield School District.

Per this agreement, the school district would not have had any electricity bills from the City of Akron, and the City of Akron would have paid 2 cents per kilowatt hour on the excess electricity the turbine generated. The school district was not going to be charged an electrical demand fee.

In February 1999, the 600-kilowatt became operational. It came from Denmark through Vestas American Wind Technology company. The engineers were Prohaska & Associates of Omaha, Neb.

2000: It was discovered that the agreement between the city council and school board had never been ratified by the city council.

2001: The city sued the school district for the electricity the district hadn’t paid since the wind turbine began operation.

Feb. 20, 2001: Noted Dec. 12, 2000, Judge ruled in favor of city, school board appealed decision.

June 11, 2003: Wind turbine lawsuit officially ends as both sides agree on settlement. The school district owed the city approximately $163,000. In addition, the school district would have to pay electrical demand charges.

Therefore, instead of saving the district about $87,000 annually, it only saved the district about $40,000.

This savings didn’t take into account the wind turbine’s service agreement and repair costs. The service agreement cost the school district between $10,000 and $12,000 annually, said Thompson. Between July 10, 2002 and Aug. 13, 2008, the school district spent $83,739.95 on the wind turbine’s service agreement payments and repairs. Of that amount, $17,073.28 were for repairs.

By adding in the service agreement and repair costs, the wind turbine generates about one-fourth of what its original projected revenue was, she said.

The district was receiving between $24,000 and $40,000 annually from Heartland Public Power District for the wind turbine’s power generation.

From June 15, 2007 to July 15, 2008, the district’s electric bill was $93,177.61 and Heartland paid the district $43,387.30, which is based on the amount of kilowatts the wind turbine produced.

However, during the same time period, the district spent $23,344.30 on wind turbine repairs, the maintenance agreement fee and other wind turbine maintenance fees.

For this period, the overall savings for the district with the wind turbine was $20,043.12.

Without the wind turbine, another revenue source will be needed to make up that annual savings or the budget cut, concluded Thompson.

June 2, 2008: School Board approved final loan payment on the wind turbine. It had been financed with two loans: Iowa Energy Center Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program Series A and B. One was an interest-free loan of $250,000 and the other was $450,000.

Dec. 10, 2008: School Board learned wind turbine needed a new gear box. Cost was estimated at $229,149. This was the second time the gear box had failed. The first gear box had failed early on, and had been covered by the turbine’s warranty.

January 2009: School officials were trying to determine who was responsible for paying for the gear box repairs: Vistas American Wind Technology, the company who designed the wind turbine, the district’s insurance company or the district itself. The gear box was replaced.

Oct. 21, 2009: The gear box failed a third time. School officials toured the wind turbine, seeing its damaged areas. They decided to just let it continue operation until it quit, which happened in October or November 2010.

2012: School Board enters six-month contract with Joe Graham of BlueSkyWind LLC of New York to find solution for inoperable wind turbine.

Oct. 3, 2012: School Board enters contract with First Priority Consulting Group to find a solution to the inoperable wind turbine.

Feb. 4, 2014: Wind turbine’s brakes failed, causing it to be a “runaway” turbine as the district had no control over the turning blades.

March 26, 2014: School officials noted the brakes had been fixed but the brakes’ failure had stalled any potential buyers’ interest in purchasing it.

May 22, 2014: School Board approved agreement with Joe Graham of BlueSkyWind LLC of New York to come up with plan to have someone purchase it and operate it on-site. Again, there was little interest because the wind turbine’s design was obsolete.

Feb. 6, 2017: At a special work session for A-W’s third bond attempt, the wind turbine project was considered as a bond project:

There still is no solution for the district’s inoperable wind turbine. It appears the only solution will be for the district to cough up the money to dismantle and remove it, then remove its large concrete base and restore the land to its original condition.

Two years ago, the cost was estimated at $300,000, according to A-W Shared Superintendent Randy Collins, explaining the Wind Turbine Project cost was not figured into these bond options.

“There needs to be money set aside to get rid of the wind turbine,” said Board Member Jodi Thompson. “It’s just deteriorating more. We need, as a board, to make a decision and be done with it. It’s not a pleasant decision but it needs to be addressed.”

Board Member Cory Tucker thought with the $5.2 million bond option, the Wind Turbine Project could be included but it might have to be done in two phases.

The Wind Turbine Project would be an Annual (Summer) Project and probably have a high priority on the Long Term Facilities Plan, said Board Member Nick Mathistad, adding the Long Term Facilities Plan’s projects are fluid — moving up and down in priority.”

2020: Purchase Power Agreement with Heartland Consumer Power District expires but there is no need for renewal.

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