It took nearly seven years, but the blades are finally turning on a pair of wind turbines at the Archbold and Pettisville schools in northwestern Ohio, demonstrating how school districts can take control of their energy future and create educational opportunities for their kids at the same time.
“We have controlled the price of the electricity we will use going forward,” says Stephen Switzer, superintendent of the Pettisville schools. The turbine has a projected lifespan of 20 years.
Administrators at both of the small-town school districts had been looking into how to become more self-sufficient and reduce their energy bills since the mid-2000s. Switzer says he had watched as other districts grappled with financial problems brought on by energy costs, and he didn’t want his schools to end up in the same situation when they built a new buidling, as they were planning to do in 2011. But it wasn’t until federal stimulus funds became available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act in 2009 that the construction of the twin turbines became a reality.
Since the turbine’s activation in late February, says Switzer, the 85-foot blades of the 300-foot-tall 750-kilowatt structure in Pettisville have been whirring away productively, generating about 325,000 kilowatt hours to date. On some calm days, the school has to buy electricity from the utility, but on others, when the wind is strong, it sells juice back to the grid.
In Archbold, school officials hope that the turbine will eventually meet 74 percent of the electricity needs of the district’s high school and elementary school.