Downtown Dallas' El Centro College Now Has a Rooftop Wind Farm

ElCentroWindFarm2.jpg
Dallas County Community College District
For the past six years, apparently, El Centro College has been planning a rooftop wind farm for its Downtown Dallas campus. On Tuesday afternoon -- Earth Day -- the project went live as students watched on a student union video feed.

It's a relatively modest effort as far as wind farms go. The project cost $240,000. When completed, it will include 80 turbines, each about the height of an adult human, capturing enough energy to power the 2,000 computers in El Centro's computer labs and save an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 per year in electricity costs.

Modest or no, DCCCD spokeswoman Ann Hatch is touting the project as "the first wind turbine farm in Dallas County."

A crane hoisted the first 40 turbines to the roof of Building A on Friday. The remaining 40 will be installed in coming months.

David Browning, El Centro's vice president for business affairs, says the turbines have a life expectancy of 30 years and expects they will pay for themselves in about half that time.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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28 comments
dbrowning1
dbrowning1

  I want to thank everyone for your comments I appreciate the interest in El Centro. I'd like to clarify a couple of points.  On cost of maintenance and repairs, the Turbines are warrantied for twenty-five years for yearly maintenance and repairs.  The ROI is longer than first anticipated.  5 years ago our electricity was almost double what we are currently being charged, I anticipate it rising again in the future.  Finally, benefits that are not calculated in the ROI is the access for our student as a living lab.  Students in our Environmental program are already studying how wind energy can impact the environment.  Also, the wind turbines will be used in future programs on teaching installation, repair and maintenance.  Thank you again for you interest.

WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA
WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA

David Browning seems bad at math. No surprise from a college hack though. 

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Any chance we can get a wind farm on the tollway through the floodplain? I mean sure, electricity and water probably should be kept apart, but heh, why start interjecting common sense now.

doublecheese
doublecheese

With any luck, it will shred up those disgusting pigeons downtown. 

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

Interesting. Does anybody know what the lifespan of the turbines is projected to be, and the yearly maintenance cost?


I'm not attacking this, I really want to know.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@dbrowning1 Mr. Browning, of course you are correct that electricity prices are very low from a historical perspective.  For how many years have you locked in your rate contractually?  A user the size of El Centro should be able to lock for three to five years at a relatively small premium.


Also, did you consider the possibility of hail damage in your calculations?  Of course insurance would cover the damage, but I'm guessing your deductible is well into the tens of thousands.


Good luck with the project.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@dbrowning1

Thank you for taking the time to come on the site and clarify these items.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA  No, he's correct. 30 years / 2 = 15 years

15*$15k=225k
15*$20k=300k

It will take about 15 years to pay back the cost. 

You are wrong. 

Rusticle
Rusticle

@Tim.Covington  I'm too lazy to read the 9 sentence article also. Can someone just tell me what the cost of the project is?

dbrowning1
dbrowning1

@ColonelAngus @dbrowning1 Thank you.  We have two years remaining on a 5 year contract.  Hopefully it won't go up to much.  They are supposed to withstand hail and high winds (we recorded 75 mile an hour gusts) and thereby covered under the warranty.  Hope this answers your questions.

WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA
WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA

@theslowpath @WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA  The project cost $240k.


In a made up world with no maintenance costs and 100% peak operation yes it would recoup in 15 years.


But there are maintenance costs and the turbines do not work at 100% all the time. 


It's also a really shitty ROI if you consider it takes 15 years to make back your principle investment. 


They could save 15k a year by reducing their electrical use. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@theslowpath

don't confuse him with the facts, and especially if it requires using math.

"a college hack".

priceless.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@Rusticle @Tim.Covington  The article gives the cost of installing the turbines. It does not give the lifespan of the turbines or what their yearly maintenance costs are projected to be. 

You need to quit trying to be a smartass. It only makes you look like a dumbass.

L8nitedave
L8nitedave

@WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA If a bureaucratically funded proof of concept experiment can yield near cost effectiveness, what happens when privately cost/stake engineered efficiency and economies of scale start to take hold?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@theslowpath

"...  even if that "green" stuff is just hippie-bullshit to you, ..."

No, it is not hippie bullshit to me.  I am just being critical of an expenditure by a taxpayer funded entity.

Besides, I get the feeling that I was designing and building windmill, small scale hydro and PV projects before you were born, if not, then my apologies.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@mavdog @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

What are the annual O&M costs?

Thanks for the IRR estimate.


However, the first 15 years are recapture of capital invested, then the return starts.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul

If any assumption was made about IROR, it probably does not have a positive cost benefit ratio.

An initial investment of $240,000 and receiving savings of $15,000 over 30 years is producing an IRR of 4.65%. If the annual savings is $20,000 a year the IRR is 7.34%.

That is a positive cost/benefit ratio, especially in light of what investment` yields currently are.

lebowski300
lebowski300

@Tim.Covington Does it give "the cost of installing the turbines"? No. It gives "the cost of the project". Which may or may not include maintenance costs. You might want to improve your critical reading skills prior to calling a person a dumbass.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@theslowpath  

Somebody has to make the decision to allocate the money.  The main problem is that this is somebody else's money.  so I still question whether or not this was a good decision.

But what the hey!, IT'S GREEN!

PS:  I am a Dallas County resident.  I already support DCCCD through my ad valorem tax payments.  I am not going to support poor financial decisions by making more money available to them.  That is like the annual shakedown by school districts that demand that the students bring $50 to $100 worth of "supplies" to school the first day or they cannot attend.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, the DCCCD accounting practices are designed for maximum accountability. Money gets earmarked for certain things and can't be changed. For instance, an academic division will have one budget for classroom supplies and another for office supplies. They can't be used interchangeably. Even something as simple as batteries or office chairs or whatever have to be ordered through approved vendors - if you want something outside of those vendors you have to open a bid process. 

It ends up causing a lot of headache and probably even some waste, but it helps keep the money straight and discourages "hand in the till" situations. 

All that to say that 240k was almost certainly earmarked for an environmentally-helpful (or green) project and couldn't be used for anything else. It may have even come from a grant, though the press release would have probably said so. 

And I like said earlier, even if that "green" stuff is just hippie-bullshit to you, it's not to a lot of people. So it does give them bragging rights with another sort of crowd.

But thanks for caring about El Centro and the DCCCD so much. There are fund-raisers all the time, so show your support (and dollars) for something you do think is a good idea. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@theslowpath @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul@Rusticle@Tim.Covington 

I question that this is a good use of the money available to El Centro.  I wonder what $240k would do for some of their courses by providing new, updated or additional equipment.

I also think that there maybe cheaper ways for El Centro to shave $15k to $20 a year off of their utility bill.

But what the hey! It's GREEN!


By the way, a negative IROR means that you are essentially stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Rusticle @Tim.Covington  That's also assuming electricity prices don't go way up (increasing the gross savings) or down (decreasing them). 

Is it the best use of money compared to other ROI? Probably not. But I doubt DCCCD would be cool with El Centro taking capital improvement money and investing in, what...the bond market? Or whatever. 

This gives them some Green credentials that, obviously, don't matter to you. But they matter to others, and it's not like they're flushing money away. Over the 30 year life time this should save them a nice chunk of change. 

theslowpath
theslowpath

@Tim.Covington @Rusticle  Rooftop wind, like solar, doesn't require much maintenance. Scheduled cleaning, mostly. These should be brushless, with very little mechanical friction. 

Over the 30 year lifetime, there will almost certainly be a few units that need repairs, but a 15 year payback time is a good estimate.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Rusticle @Tim.Covington 

Ignoring any maintenance costs, the simple payback is 12 to 16 years.  If any assumption was made about IROR, it probably does not have a positive cost benefit ratio.

Additionally utilities are arguing for demand fees on the installed capacity of installations such as these.

But what the hey! it's GREEN!

Rusticle
Rusticle

@Tim.Covington "David Browning, El Centro's vice president for business affairs, says the turbines have a life expectancy of 30 years and expects they will pay for themselves in about half that time."

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