From wind to solar at Allen Brook School

Observer courtesy photo
After seven years, the wind turbine at ALlen Brook School broke last fall and has been replaced by a solar panel.

By John Terko

Allen Brook School principal

Williston residents may have noticed that the wind turbine at Allen Brook School is gone. Over the Thanksgiving break, one of the blades came off the turbine head. This caused the turbine to wobble, and eventually a wire broke and it collapsed to the ground. The location was far from the school for safety reasons, and I am thankful that it happened over the break when school was out.

Here is a little history on the turbine and how it came to Allen Brook. Back in 2009, the school had a theme week around sustainability. We had many programs set up for the week on the topic of saving the earth. We had an electric car, electric lawn mowers and much more.

Doug Kievit-Kylar of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation came and did a presentation. At the end of the day,  he approached me and asked, “is it always this windy here?” I said yes, every day we get a fair amount of wind. He suggested I look into wind power as there are grants out there to help provide financial assistance. I found two that would work for our school, each for $10,000.

Within a couple months of submitting the grant applications, we were awarded both grants. I approached Earth Turbines here in Williston and asked for their support. A site visit was done, they brought the cost down and we were $4,000 dollars short. The school board at the time felt this was a worthy project and kicked in the remaining amount.

In the summer of 2010, we began work on erecting our turbine. It was completed in September of that year and officially turned on for operation. Depending on the amount of wind each year, we were able to net meter between $400 and $800 dollars a year. I have done classes with CVU on the operation of the turbine as well as our own students at Allen Brook. I worked with a former student at CVU on his grad challenge as he was attempting to get CVU to install a turbine. I am glad that I had an opportunity to share my knowledge with many students.

Clean energy was the goal from the beginning, and thanks to our theme week, we became a part of the clean energy movement. The turbine had been in operation for seven years and served us well.

Where do we go from here? Well, I spoke with Earth Turbines, and they agreed to replace the turbine with a solar tracker. New technology today will have the solar tracker produce four times the energy that the wind turbine produced. Best of all, there will be no charge for the replacement.

I hope that after I retire there will be a chance to install more trackers and continue our goal of reducing our carbon footprint. You won’t see the blades spinning anymore, but the sun will pick up where the wind left off.