As far-fetched as it may sound, a wind turbine that could possibly power Crookston Sports Center, Crookston High School and the University of Minnesota Crookston spurred a lengthy discussion at a recent CSC Budget Task Force meeting.
Task force members have previously discussed alternative energy options to ease the operating costs of the CSC, but had not yet taken steps to find out if a wind turbine would be a viable option for their needs.
Crookston Mayor Dave Genereux, who has done some research on the topic of wind energy, said, "A wind turbine, a big one, a couple of years ago was about $2 million and to get on the grid they were paying something like three to four cents a kilowatt. It took 20 some years before you paid it all. If you can use it (the wind-generated energy) all yourself and it costs on the average of seven or eight cents, maybe you could pay it off earlier, but you've got to use it all and then you can't just hook up to the grid and say I'll give you my extras. There is going to be a lot of controls and stuff. Certainly we could look at it."
Why include CHS and UMC? The possibility of receiving grant money to lower energy costs for a sports arena are slim to none. However, alternative power sources for a school district or a public university may open the door to funding or tax breaks.
Craig Hoiseth, executive director of CHEDA, voiced his concerns. "The trouble, of course, is always your payback," he said. "How many years are you going to have to do that? Capital investment up front is really, really cost prohibitive. You can't just supply (extra energy) back to the grid. And, unless you can use it, you are never going to get the payback."
Even though many people consider Crookston to be a windy place, there was also a concern among task force members as to whether or not an average wind speed of 13 to 14 miles per hour would be able to be reached. The thinking is, if there was sufficient wind around Crookston, wouldn't someone have launched a wind farm by now?
Will a turbine be a way to lower energy costs at CSC? Will discussion on this topic lead to looking into a collaboration with the Crookston School District and the University of Minnesota? Maybe the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary had it right and the answer truly is blowin' in the wind.