Envionmental Psychology

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Wind Energy Information: Spirit Lake Wind Project

By Jeanette Joy Fisher

If you think wind energy is just a passing fad, or worse yet, just an anachronistic relic from out of the past, you may want to talk to the folks at the Spirit Lake School District in central Iowa--because they know different, and they'll be happy to set you straight.

In 1993, with the help of a low-interest loan from the Energy Council of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Spirit Lake School District installed a 250 kW Wind World turbine. That wind generator paid for itself in just five years through savings on electrical costs to the school district, and by 1998, the loan was paid back in full--a full three and a half years ahead of schedule.

Building upon the success of their first wind generator, the school district then moved up to a 750-kW Micon generator in 2001, which will produces five times as much energy as their first one, due in part to major advances in turbine efficiency. The school district has saved nearly a half million dollars in energy costs in the five years since the generator was first installed. Those savings have been used to increase the quality of education for the children in the school district, as well as to completely power the districtís middle school, high school, vocational tech building, district offices, maintenance buildings, and all the districtís sports fields. The district expects their newest wind turbine to be paid off by the year 2008, after which all their will be free for the expected 30-year life of the turbine.

All of that power, and the money the wind turbine has saved, has come at no expense to the environment. No coal, oil, hydropower, or nuclear resources were required to generate the energy for the school district--and there's no chance that the wind will ever stop blowing in Spirit Lake, on the edge of Iowa's prairie. As for safety, elementary students play only yards away from the wind turbine while on the playground at recess. There is virtually no noise, and no pollution. Itís a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Iowa is a national leader in wind power energy production, and much of what is taking place is at the grassroots level. Just ask the folks who live, work, and go to school in the Spirit Lake School District.

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Spirit Lake Elementary School
Playground. Courtesy AWEA.org

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