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School to invite bids for turbine assembly

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By Preston Knight - pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- An invitation to bid for the construction of a wind turbine on the central campus is currently being developed, following Shenandoah County School Board approval of the project.

Through a partnership with James Madison University, Central High School is seeking to have the 55-foot structure placed in an open area between the high school and W.W. Robinson Elementary School. While the board approved the turbine Thursday, the exact location could still change.

The project is a part of Wind Powering America's Wind for Schools initiative, which seeks to raise awareness in rural parts of the country about the benefits of wind energy by placing turbines at public schools. JMU also worked with Northumberland County to construct a wind turbine there, and real-time data is available on that school division's website. Since it went up in February, the turbine has produced 493 kilowatts of energy as of Monday afternoon.

Remy Luerssen, director of education and outreach for JMU's Virginia Center for Wind Energy and state facilitator for Wind for Schools in Virginia, said Monday that the Central device would barely create enough energy -- estimated to be 452 kilowatts a year -- to light a classroom, instead comparing its impact to the schools to that of a microscope. On a larger level, its presence will help educate students, and the community, of the benefits of wind energy, she said.

"Why Woodstock was a good location, and one of the goals [of Wind for Schools], is to get kids excited and energized, and it's a way to get the community excited, energized and informed," Luerssen said. "They can get used to the sight of a small turbine."

Fundraising and grant money will cover the costs of the approximately $16,500 project, leaving no financial obligation to the school system.

JMU and Central presented their plan to the School Board last month. They received positive feedback except for some concern with the location. Chairman Gary Rutz had indicated he was fearful of the turbine falling and injuring someone.

Project officials did some further research and came back last week with four options. The only two that make sense are the one near W.W. Robinson and a spot near the softball field at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, Luerssen said, with the former still the best option in terms of the availability of wind and costs.

Once a contractor is selected, that company will help officials work with Woodstock in securing the turbine's location, she said. The turbine is scheduled to be ready by next school year.

Meredith Bauserman, an ecology and environmental science teacher at Central, said being able to compare real-time data with other Wind for Schools members, such as those in Colorado, will be a resourceful educational tool. But the turbine's presence will be noteworthy alone, she said.

"I think it's just going to be great for students to see, up close and personal, a wind turbine," Bauserman said Monday. "We hear about them and read about them, but you don't always get to see one up close and personal."

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