James Madison University

School Wind Projects

The Wind for Schools program aims to install small wind systems as schools as a demonstration project for educational purposes.

View this webinar about how to get wind at your school

Project Development Process Overview

The project development process is very similar for school projects as it is for residential wind projects. For schools, a small turbine will likely never generate all of their electricity needs. Thus, the cost savings shouldn’t be the emphasis of the turbine, but rather the focus should be on the educational benefits. And the educational benefits are boundless. During project development there are opportunities for JMU seniors in the Integrated Science and Technology program to be involved through their capstone project and also for students at the school to help with different stages of the process and learn about how turbines are installed. See the K-12 Education page for more information on potential student projects.

Siting Your Turbine

Siting a small-scale turbine at a school is very similar to siting a turbine at a residence or business. See the residential and business wind page section on siting for all you need to know about siting. There is one major difference siting a school turbine; the school will want to maximize visibility and educational benefits while minimizing cost. This means the turbine should be clearly visible but also close to an interconnection point.

Turbine Options and Costs

The national Wind for Schools program has identified a suggested wind turbine that is easy to implement and interconnect to the school's electrical grid, is small enough so that all of the system generation will be used at the school, and has integrated data logging to provide data for use in the classroom. The standard Wind for School system is a SkyStream 3.7, 2.4-kW wind turbine. This turbine is made by Xzeres Wind (as of July 2013). View the specs for the Skystream 3.7.

A small wind turbine like a Skystream 3.7 can cost up to $20,000, but depending on the installer that you work with. But, with the support of your community the cost can be much lower (Roughly $12,000-$15,000 for just the cost of the turbine, tower and foundation kit). Many of the items needed for installation items can be donated by the utility, members of the community, or the installer. Download the Wind for Schools Project Power System Brief.

Due to the limited wind resource available at schools in Virginia as well as the lack of funding in this economy, we recognize that schools may want to look at other wind turbine options for their Wind for Schools projects. Below we discuss some other suggested wind turbines better suited for lower wind speed and also at a lower cost. You can also download the Low Cost Option Factsheet. Just remember that schools are able to install whatever type of turbine they would like or can afford and still be part of the Wind for Schools network. However, not all turbines offer data logging and have the long standing performance of the Skystream.

Some schools, including JMU, have installed wind turbines made by Bergey. Bergey offers a 1kW, 5kW, 7.5kW, and 10kW system. The Bergey is a system that has been certified by the Small Wind Certification Council and is offered in grid-tied or off-grid models. This is a very robust wind turbine, however data logging is not offered, though you may be able to add an off-the-shelf data logger.

Another option would be an Air turbine. These used to be made by Southwest WindPower but are now made by Primus Energy. The Air 30 is a 400W system and is very reasonably priced at around $2000. Primus Energy is also working on a hybrid product that would include an Air 30 and a series of solar panels. This would be a stand-alone system that would charge batteries. The batteries would be used for some small loads like charging a phone and the system would have data logging capabilities.

Funding Ideas

The Center for Wind Energy does not provide funding for the turbines at the schools. It is the school’s responsibility to find the funding for the system. The Center is available to help the school identify funding opportunities to cover the cost of a turbine and its installation. Fortunately, there are many funding options for schools that want to put up a wind turbine on campus. View the project funding fact sheet.

Some ideas for funding are listed below:

  • The Center has received cost matching from BP Wind to support Wind for Schools projects and we are working on securing more of this kind of support from businesses in Virginia
  • State Energy Office: In 2010 the Virginia State Energy Office offered funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help schools install small wind systems on their campuses. JMU is hoping that the State Energy Office will be able to find funds in years to come to continue to help fund these worthy projects
  • Appalachian Regional Commission and Tobacco Commission: Schools in the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Tobacco Commission territory may also be eligible for funding for projects
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: The USDA has two grants, REAP EEI and RBEG, that could be used to fund renewable energy projects at schools in rural areas
  • Lowes: The Lowes Tool Box grant is commonly used for projects in other Wind for Schools states
  • Green Energy Certificates: Large businesses in the state will be purchase the environmental attributes associated with the first 10 years of operation of a small wind turbine on school property for about $2,500. Schools will want to identify possible companies in their area and write letters to invite them to sponsor your project. JMU can help with this process as well.
  • Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) Settlements: SEPs are a policy vehicle designed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to give violators an alternative to standard fines for noncompliance. Instead of paying the full amount of its fines, the company can volunteer to fund environmentally friendly projects. JMU is can help get schools in touch with the right contact at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

KidWind also has a list of grants and funding they know about that may help fund KidWind workshops, Challenges, or hands-on materials.

We have also put together a comprehensive Grant Writing Guide for schools. This document includes information on potential funding opportunities, Wind for Schools grant writing guidelines and example grants, and other resources that will help you compose grant proposals for your school's project.

Permitting Issues

When installing a small wind turbine at a residence, business or school there are some strict county/city/town policies that you will need to adhere to. First, there are set-back rules that dictate how far the turbine needs to be from surrounding property lines. These are usually anywhere from 100% to 150% of the height of the tower. There is also a height restriction usually. These can range from 35 feet to 80 feet or even higher. You will want to check what these restrictions are before you get too far into the project development as these will be imperative to meet in order to get your building and electrical permits. The Center is happy to help you navigate these permitting hurdles and your installed will also be able to help.