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Illinois schools tap into wind energy

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Ill., Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Three Illinois school districts say their planned wind farm will generate all the energy they need -- and enough extra to make $3 million a year selling it.

The Chicago-area districts -- Keeneyville School District 20, Carpentersville's Community Unit School District 300 and Prospect Heights School District 23 -- plan the 13-turbine wind farm in rural Stark County 140 miles southwest of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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The districts' school boards formed the School Wind Consortium, which is issuing bonds, seeking investors and applying for federal grants to raise $50 million.

All three districts have laid off staff and cut programs but still face budget shortfalls.

The consortium says it hopes to build and begin to operate the wind farm by fall of next year and expects it to bring in $3 million annually for about 30 years.

Some Illinois schools run on-site turbines to generate their own electricity, including Bureau Valley High School in Manlius and the Erie Community School District.

Illinois state legislation in 2007 paved the way for school districts, community colleges and towns to reduce energy costs by owning and running wind farms. But it's impractical for many entities to install turbines.

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The three school districts plan to lease farmland for their wind farm, which is expected to generate enough energy for about 5,000 homes, or 65,000 megawatt hours annually.

"It's totally unique and the legislation that enables that project to work is also very unique," said Kevin Borgia, executive director of the non-profit Illinois Wind Energy Association. "We really hope it does come together because it could be a big benefit for schools in Illinois and nationwide."

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