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Wind turbine takes bite out of school district's power bill

January 18, 2016

A central Indiana school district that got its own wind turbine two years ago is seeing some big savings on its electricity bills thanks to that wind-driven power station, district officials say.

Shenandoah Schools' turbine generates 900 kilowatts of electricity and is intended to produce about 85 percent of the power needed by the district's elementary, middle and high schools in Middletown, just east of Anderson.

Superintendent Ron Green said the district owed nothing on its December power bill thanks to the electricity generated by the turbine.

"We're proud of that fact. We'd like to have more of those months, but it depends on the wind," Green told The Herald Bulletin in Anderson.

District Business Manager Julia Miller said the district is now paying between $105,000 and $112,000 annually for electricity. That's about half of what it paid before the turbine went online.

The turbine does not supply power to district administrative offices or its football field, just its schools. But officials hope the $2.6 million turbine financed mostly by government bonds will pay for itself within a decade.

In the meantime, the wind turbine that stands 220 feet tall and boasts three 82-foot-long blades is inspiring students at the district in Middletown, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

Two sophomores in the district, Sami DeLey and Brandon Barnes, have become the school's experts on the wind turbine, which shuts down for safety reasons when winds reach 60 mph, has a built-in lightning rod and a system that detects when storms are near.

Once they entered high school, Barnes suggested they do a natural resource demonstration on the turbine at FFA competitions. Last year, the pair won first place in the district contest and second place at the state competition.

"I remember being outside and watching it be put together in the three parts," DeLey said. "That's when I was like, 'I want to learn more about it.'"

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