There are differences. The St. Olaf turbine will directly supply the students' needs on campus, while the Carleton windmill feeds power back to the energy utility, Xcel. St. Olaf was in a good position to draw the windpower directly into the campus loop due to a decision made a few years ago to install a generator system capable of supplying all of the college's needs from diesel generators on site. The project was proposed by Northern States Power, to help manage peak demand and reduce the need for a nuclear installation. This project fell through, but St. Olaf proceeded to install the generators on their own initiative, recognizing that the savings could justify the project independently of NSP's support. In addition to making St. Olaf a key partner of the county civil defense planners and a backup site for the Northfield Hospital in case of black-outs, the decision laid the infrastructure for a power loop supplying the campus.
Key in the ability of St. Olaf to justify the expense of a turbine economically was a visionary decision of the Minnesota legislature to require Xcel energy to deposit $500,000 to a Renewable Development Fund for every cask of dry nuclear waste stored at its Prairie Island nuclear facility. Based on the existing infrastructure and St. Olaf's contribution to emergency planning for the community, it was a cinch for St. Olaf's proposal to win $1.5 million of these funds for the $1.9 million turbine project. In September 2006, a St. Olaf's windmill will join Carleton's and together they will produce power equivalent to about 4% of the community's total usage, 30-40% of the needs of the colleges themselves.
So, Carleton, the ball is back in your court. How about composting those cafeteria scraps?
If you know of a "green college" story, let us know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Worldwatch Institute is another opportunity to publicize your college's efforts.