Wind turbine will come down next week

After more than a decade in service, the wind turbine in the northeast corner of campus between the university power plant and CyRide facility will be removed next week. Demolition is slated to conclude by Thursday, Aug. 10. The 160-foot, 100-kilowatt turbine became increasingly unreliable in recent years before it stopped operating last August.

Purchase or produce

Mark Kruse, director of utility services, said the turbine produced approximately 0.055% of the electricity used on campus, and the revenue it generated for the owner -- an average of $9,000 worth of electricity annually -- was unlikely to keep up with the cost of repairs.

Repair costs weren't the only concern. Iowa State's 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Ohio-based SUREnergy, which owns the turbine, required the university to pay 10 cents per kilowatt for electricity generated by the turbine. The current purchasing cost for renewable electricity from an energy provider averages between 4 and 4.5 cents per kilowatt.

Did you know?

Iowa State is ranked among the top 30 colleges and universities in the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership.

Kruse said Iowa State purchases renewable electricity off the grid as well as the renewable energy credits associated with its production. At first, producing the energy in-house may seem like the better option, but Kruse said purchasing renewable electricity helps facilities planning and management (FPM) continue to meet and expand the university's sustainability goals at a fraction of the cost.

"We need to be good environmental and financial stewards for our students," Kruse added. "Purchasing renewable energy also encourages energy providers to produce more renewable energy and replace non-renewable sources."

Purpose fulfilled

As the turbine aged, finding opportunities to use it as a learning tool -- once an added benefit for students and researchers studying energy -- also became difficult. Kruse said FPM maintains data collected from the turbine and would share it with visitors during plant tours, but its technology and information became outdated in comparison to new generations of turbine technology.

Though the turbine has reached the end of its lifespan, Kruse felt it was still an important milestone in the university's ongoing transition to using more renewable energy and decarbonizing the campus.

"We've been able to acquire firsthand wind production data -- information that aids progress toward a carbon-neutral campus," he said. "The wind turbine no longer will be a part of Iowa State's sustainability portfolio, but with the assistance of a national renewable energy consultant, other forms of alternative energy are being studied for campus application and financial feasibility."