Grinnell College blown off course on campus wind energy project


The John H. T. Main Residence Hall on the Grinnell College campus. (Wikimedia)
The John H. T. Main Residence Hall on the Grinnell College campus. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | October 28, 2014

Plans for a 5.1-megawatt wind farm on the Grinnell College campus have come to a halt after officials with the college and its utility provider were unable to reach an agreement.

Officials from Madison, Wisconsin-based Alliant Energy said that if the plans for the wind farm were to go through, Alliant would “have to curtail much of the project’s energy production” to accommodate for another wind energy developer which applied for an interconnection agreement before the private liberal arts college which serves approximately 1,721 students. The company, Optimum Energy, would have priority for generating and selling energy back to Alliant, according to Alliant Energy policy.

The Grinnell College Board of Trustees first approved of the plan in February 2011. The $13 million project consisted of a three turbine wind farm which was expected to provide the college with more than half of its energy consumption. Research by Grinnell College alumnus Mia Devine led to the 2007 installation of a wind turbine on the Conard Environmental Research Area, a 365-acre field station about 11 miles west of campus. The wind farm project was based off of similar projects at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.

The utility board will examine interconnection issues in an attempt to resurrect the plan but Grinnell College Environmental and Safety Coordinator Chris Bair thinks it is unlikely the project will move forward. Officials with the college have considered other energy alternatives such as solar panels and biogas.

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