St. Olaf College Windmill Ups Ante in Green Competition with Carleton College

"Cows, Colleges Contentment and Windmills." The three-Cs motto that has for decades accurately described cozy Northfield Minnesota, where two of the State's leading institutions of higher education are snuggled together in an agricultural setting, is going green. Northfield now boasts two tall windmills, each claimed by its respective College in the newest extension of a long-fought but good-natured competition between the schools. Northfield is a case study in a wave of green campus activity.Carleton fired the opening round in the windmill battle, claiming the nation's first utility grade windmill owned by a college, which started producing power (1.65MW) in September 2004. Perhaps in a subtle rebuttal, St. Olaf reminds that water for the original "Old Main" was pumped by windmill, pictured above. In September of 2006, St. Olaf will join Carleton in producing 1.65MW from a turbine installed and owned by the Black & Golds.

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.

A blog follows the construction of the St. Olaf turbine. If you ever wondered how they put these giants of the breeze into service, check out the time lapse turbine construction video.

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 Worldwatch Institute is another opportunity to publicize your college's efforts.

Via ::Open the Future