NORMAL — Heartland Community College has a degree program in renewable energy, a Green Institute and a key role in forming the Illinois Community College Sustainability Network.
Now it has its own wind turbine.
It will be about mid-June before the turbine begins delivery of electricity for Heartland to use. But, once it’s in full operation, college officials expect it to generate about half of the 9.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity the college uses annually.
That would be a savings of $320,000 a year, based on the college’s bill in the last fiscal year.
The project cost has risen from original projection of $4.7 million to $5.2 million, but that was anticipated and no additional borrowing will be needed, according to Rob Widmer, vice president of business services.
The college received $1.46 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. The rest of the money is coming from bonds.
Widmer said the borrowing costs will be covered by the savings in reduced utility bills. The expected payoff is 15 years.
Some community colleges have small wind turbines, but Heartland is believed to be the first in Illinois to have a large, commercial-grade turbine.
Calling it “a significant instructional tool,” Widmer said the educational role of the turbine “was one of the major considerations of getting a turbine this size.”
In addition to generating electricity, the turbine will generate streams of data which classes will have to opportunity to monitor and study.
Chris Miller, professor of industrial technology at Heartland, is looking forward to having his students review the data to see what electricity is being generated under various conditions and times of day and how it matches the college’s consumption.
A lot of material on wind energy is already covered in courses taught at Heartland, such as “Renewable Energy Concepts,” but Miller said the full-scale turbine will be a “showcase” so students can see how it compares to scaled-down devices they use in labs.
Miller said having a turbine on campus “demonstrates to the community that this is where we’re going; this is the future.”