David Ulm’s Quest for Windmills – Part 1

Starting my quest to learn what’s up in windmill electrical generation was Carpentersville School District 300’s efforts in Hampshire.

So far wind is not even making a dent in the territory served by Commonwealth Edison.

“They don’t want us producing our own electricity,” District 300 Energy Czar told me.

And why would the company want it to?

No reason, because a Com Ed affiliate generates electric energy from other sources. Think nuclear power.

Why pose even the tiniest threat by agreeing to make it easier for wind generated electricity?

First schools, community colleges and county governments and cities would get their feet in the door, next anyone might build a windmill.

Talking to Ulm, I learned of one impediment that could easily be solved with a change in state law.

“Existing legislation says they may negotiate,” Ulm said.

“’Oh, that’s nice. No thanks,’” Ulm suggested would be Com Ed’s reply.

District 300 State Rep. Fred Crespo’s House Bill 6660 might do the trick. It was introduced too late for action last year, but will undoubtedly be brought back for a serious effort this year.

The bill would require Com Ed and other utilities to provide what is called “aggregate net-metering” for schools and other local governmental entities.

“That would allow us to get that credit for offsite usage, Ulm explained. “What we want is for that credit to be applied to ALL of our other accounts.” Now, “excess energy created at Hampshire High School will only be credited for the HHS account.”

That would mean a school district like 300 could hook one or more windmills into the power grid and be given credit for the power they generate by windmill.

If, during a windy time of year—think the last three months—more power was generated than used by the government or governments involved in an intergovernmental agreement, credit would have to be given for power delivered by Com Ed in slack times.

When I was in the General Assembly, I went through wars between hydroelectric producers and Com Ed and predict there will be a really good fight.

Having the active support of newly-sworn in and Citizens Utility Board instigator Governor Pat Quinn, along with the re-energized desire for energy independence, might sway enough votes for passage.

The Hampshire High School-Gary Wright Elementary site is large enough for one windmill, Ulm says.

“We have a peak demand of 1.1 megawatts. Looking at a 1.5 megawatt wind generator, at maximum, we would be generating 80-85 percent of the capacity of the turbine.”

Passage of “aggregate net-metering” legislation would allow District 300 to build more, perhaps the five or six other wind mils that would allow the district to be electric energy self-sufficient.

“We spend in the district roughly $3 million on electricity. If we could secure a site (or sites) that would allow 5-6 1.5 mg watt wind turbines, we could produce enough electricity to power the entire district,” Ulm told me.

Under current law, District 300 would be required to sting it own electric wires from any such windmills to each of its far-flung schools.

It seems pretty obvious that Com ed would not make that easy and would probably make it too expensive to work.

Gilberts Elementary School and Jacobs High School have possibilities, Ulm suggested.

The transmission problem does not exist at the Hampshire site.

“We’re sizing it to handle the power for the two schools on that site,” Ulm said.
100 acres. Gary Wright Elementary and Hampshire High School have a peak demand of 1.1 megawatts.

“We’re looking at a 1.5 megawatt wind generator. At maximum, we would be generating 80-85 percent the capacity of the turbine. Even with net aggregate metering, we don’t have room at that site for more than one windmill.”

But that means District 300 thinks it does not need a change in state law to make a windmill work at its Hampshire site.

And the financing?

Read tomorrow’s article.

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District 300’s Energy Czar David Ulm is seen on top. The wind farm is near Paw Paw, Illinois. The photo of Governor Pat Quinn was taken right after he was sworn in. The swinging temporary traffic lights at at Harnish Drive and Randall Road this windy winter.

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