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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Wind turbines project ensues

Wind energy at Grinnell has been given a new burst of life, as turbines go up for auction at fractions of the original price and Grinnell’s Institutional Planning works to unfreeze the project.
When the endowment dropped, Grinnell put capital projects on hold, including promises to construct windmills for the campus. Although the College had been working to bring wind energy to the school for more than four years, no construction had begun—Grinnell was left with one small turbine at Conrad Environmental Research Area (CERA), and no immediate plans for newer, large-scale turbines.
“As we were working on lease sites [for the turbines], the market went way down, the endowment went down and the trustees froze new capital projects,” said President Russell K. Osgood.
Though the recession has slowed the process of acquiring turbines, the College has yet to lose all hope of finding wind turbines. Since the wind turbine market also suffered in the recession, owners are now offering them at 50 to 80 percent discounts.
“We had estimated that the turbines would cost about $3 million originally,” Osgood said. “There was an auction estimate that they might go for $1.5 million.”
The decrease in price has reignited hope within the college administration. “From being discouraged, I’m pretty excited that this all just happened,” Osgood said. “$1.5 million is a lot easier to get than [$3 million].”

However, acquiring this amount of money will still prove difficult. Due to the endowment freeze, Grinnell is seeking private donors to fund the turbines.
“We’re going have to look really hard at where we can find those funds and if we can find [them],” said Vice President of Institutional Planning Marci Sortor. “It would be really exciting if someone said, ‘Wow, this is a great time to help the college.’”
It’s also possible that the Grinnell College Board of Trustees will agree to fund the wind turbines. Osgood and Sortor are discussing the new opportunities with the trustees, using the large discounts as persuasion.
“If [the trustees] say, ‘Yes, go ahead,’ then we’ll start going to these auctions and seeing what we can get,” Osgood said.
“If we can find the funds this is definitely the time to move,” Sortor said.
The $5 million not spent on turbines will go to leasing space, laying cable and other construction costs. The college has plans to run studies examining the impacts on the environment, birds and cultural resources.
The leasing process proves to be difficult—Grinnell has been unable to secure all the spots that it wanted, because some of the landowners were more hesitant to lease their land than was expected, according to Sortor.
“It has turned out that we have not gotten all of the possible lease sites that we would like, so we continue to work on that,” Osgood said. “Although we are close to being able to nail down the sites.”

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