Archbold, Pettisville schools find answers to power bills in wind

5/9/2013
BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The new wind turbine at the Pettisville school district complex was dedicated Wednesday.
The new wind turbine at the Pettisville school district complex was dedicated Wednesday.

ARCHBOLD, Ohio — When the Archbold and Pettisville school districts brainstormed ways to reduce their electricity bills during the mid-2000s, they arrived at a common solution: wind power.

Students, teachers, and school officials celebrated Wednesday the completion and operation of identical 750-kilowatt wind turbines at each community’s main school complex with back-to-back dedication ceremonies that, in part, recognized the two districts’ cooperative effort.

“This was a partnership from the outset, and we continue to work together today,” Archbold Superintendent Aaron Rex told a districtwide assembly in the Archbold High School gymnasium.

“This is a celebration of a team effort, the ability to do things together,” Pettisville Superintendent Stephen Switzer had said during his district’s morning gathering in a lot next to its 213-foot-tall tower while the 85-foot turbine blades whirred softly in the breeze.

At both ceremonies, Sauder Woodworking Co. announced its commitments to buy $7,500 in alternative energy credits — also called “green tags” — from each of the school districts for the next five years to support the local school districts and “reduce Sauder’s overall carbon footprint,” said Garrett Tinsman, the company’s executive vice president for operations.

Aaron Godwin, the founder of the Renaissance Group, a Kirtland, Ohio-based consultant firm that worked with the districts and Northwest State Community College on the wind project, urged students at both schools to seize on the turbines’ usefulness as a tool for learning and inspiration.

School officials said they already have worked the turbines and wind power into classwork, particularly in math and science.

The teamwork theme, however, did not stop the Archbold side from gently poking its Pettisville counterparts in the ribs during a game-show-style skit that district administrators and the Archbold High School STEM Club (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) staged during Archbold’s ceremony.

The “correct” answer to a question about whether Archbold’s turbine had killed any birds since it began operating Feb. 22 was, “No, but we do have a dump truck ready to haul away all the blackbirds it kills” — a reference to the Pettisville schools’ sports mascot.

Archbold School District’s wind turbine, next to the high school football field, was dedicated Wednesday afternoon with a ceremony and ribbon cutting.
Archbold School District’s wind turbine, next to the high school football field, was dedicated Wednesday afternoon with a ceremony and ribbon cutting.

The student “quiz team” also correctly answered — albeit from elaborately predrawn notes — that if the school’s principal, Royal Short, were bound to the tip of a turbine blade, a 13-mph wind would rotate him at 120 mph.

In Pettisville, the wind turbine is part of an effort to make the district’s K-12 school complex a “net-zero” energy consumer, with most of its needs met by the turbine, solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling.

The district uses some natural gas and, on calm days, has consumed some electricity from the Toledo Edison grid, Mr. Switzer said, but on windier days it has been a net provider of electricity to the utility. Generation starts when the wind reaches 7 miles per hour and is maximized at 26 mph.

Through Monday, the Pettisville superintendent said, the turbine had generated 305,421 kilowatt-hours of power since its Feb. 22 activation, which is valued at $23,212.

On its peak day, March 19, it produced 13,975 kilowatt-hours — one of four days so far exceeding 10,000 kilowatt-hours.

Both turbines were heavily funded by federal “stimulus” grants — funding that didn’t exist when Pettisville and Archbold began exploring their wind-turbine possibilities in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

More than half the Pettisville project’s $2,111,280 cost came from American Recovery and Revitalization Act funds, as did most of Archbold’s $1.8 million outlay.

The nearby Fayette school district, also in Fulton County, erected a 120-foot turbine in December, 2010.

Mr. Rex said the Archbold turbine is expected to provide about 64 percent of the electricity the district’s neighboring high school and elementary school consume, and district officials hope to get that up to 74 percent.

So far, the turbine has cut the district’s power bill by about $9,000 monthly, he said.

Eliot Hartzler, a Pettisville High junior who announced the school complex’s new “gold” rating from the U.S. Green Building Council during the ceremony, called the turbine “a great symbolism of how the community can work together and be a great school as well.”

Young Hartzler said the turbine blades’ whooshing is audible from his family’s house a block away, “but you definitely get used to it — it’s in the background now.”

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.