Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wind Turbine: Blowing $ at the Wind?

In a recent Daily Egyptian story, the "Green Fund" on campus, funded by a $10 student fee, boasted of a wind turbine that would cost $6 million and save $9 million for the university.

This story didn't pass the smell test on several counts:

First, the student fee raises $200,000 (approx.) per year. At that rate, it would take 30 years to accrue $6 million dollars.

Second, the "Green Fund" web site has no link that I could find to its "feasibility study." I emailed for more information but have yet to hear back from the Fund or the reporter who did the story.

I did find the following:
"Wind Power

In 2007 PSO began a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a wind power generation facility on campus. Preliminary performance estimates support a 2.5 megawatt turbine, which could reduce our main campus electric purchases from AmerenCIPS by 4%. This reduction amounts to an annual purchase offset of 3,547,800 kWh, saving nearly $225,000 per year in electrical cost at our current rates. Assuming that electric rates track inflation, the present value of the energy savings over the 30-year projected life of the turbine would be approximately $6,750,000."
Here the cost savings are not $9 million but $6.75 million over thirty years! Factor in inflation and the ROI (return on investment) is probably negative -- assuming that these forecasts are accurate.

Third, no one has asked the Jerry Maguire question: "Show me the money!"

Where is SIUC going to get $6 million? A long-term bond? Add the interest to the cost of this project. "Free" money from the federal government? When the federal government has NO money other than that it borrows from the Chinese or effectively prints?

So far, the SIU Green Fund has stuck with conservation and avoided the radicalization of other "Sustainability" programs. All to the good.

However, before the SIU Board of Trustees signs off on six million bond or federal grant, let's ask some hard questions about this project.

I'm happy to post the comments of any one involved with the Green Fund. Fire away!

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