An Illinois school district is teaching everyone a lesson in energy conservation, as it was recently announced that Milwaukee-based power solutions company Johnson Controls Inc. will construct a 1.2 megawatt wind turbine and tubular wind tower as well as an electrical distribution system for the Erie Community Unit School District No. 1 in Illinois. This single wind turbine, which is the first in the state to help power multiple buildings for a school district, will provide energy to all elementary, middle and high schools, as well as the high school annex facility.
The wind-generated energy solution will decrease the school district’s purchased electrical energy consumption by 87 percent, which represents about $5.5 million in total energy savings over 30 years. Also, the school district anticipates another $3 million or more in net revenue over the lifecycle of the unit by selling any excess energy to the local energy provider for placement on Commonwealth Edison’s distribution grid.
The wind turbine project is supported by a construction grant totaling $720,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Construction is under way, and is scheduled to be completed by mid-December.
“Beyond the operational benefits of electrical independence, we are so pleased about the endless ways in which this project can be used for educational curriculum,” said Michael Ryan, superintendent of Erie Community Unit School District No. 1, which serves Whiteside, Rock Island and Henry counties. “We are grateful to Johnson Controls for their assistance with obtaining the grant. Without it, this project would not have been possible for us.”
Ed Miller, program director for the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, said the Erie wind turbine is one of six community-based wind power projects supported by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation within the last two years, and the largest being pursued by a public school district.
“We hope other Illinois schools will learn from Erie’s experience, especially regarding what it has gained from putting together the project with an experienced energy services company,” Miller said.
Real-time remote monitoring and operation of the turbine’s energy production is possible through a Direct Digital Control system. An extension of this feature will enable the community to monitor actual energy consumption through the Internet. Additionally, upgrades to the school facilities will bring this information into the classrooms via the school’s intranet.
“It is our hope that creating this meaningful awareness of actual consumption will lead to a change in energy usage behavior and promote greater environmental responsibility,” said Brad Bateman, director of public sector sales for Johnson Controls. “This project is a true example of how Johnson Controls is able to contribute to the triple bottom line, which is economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.”
Johnson Controls and the school district will collaborate to conduct an education and communication program on the renewable energy project. The school district has submitted a proposal for an EPA Environmental Education Grant to help fund wind energy curriculum for students in the district and surrounding area, teacher training and community outreach.