OPRF saves money with new wind power contract

David Dodge

Ella Haas, News/Opinion Editor

On Oct. 9, OPRF purchased 36 months’ worth of RECs, or renewable energy credits, as part of a new contract beginning Dec. 13, 2019. The school’s electricity will now come from 100 percent wind power created in Iowa.

It wasn’t the district’s original intention to seek out environmentally-friendly energy. As the previous contract (whose fixed rate was especially high) expired, the school found green power particularly affordable – making it economically beneficial.

“Our old (contract) that we were in is expiring, and we’re venturing into this new one which will take effect when the old one expires,” said Chief Operations Officer Michael Carioscio. “The old one was at a fixed rate… higher than the current market rate now. So by virtue of entering into this new rate, we are saving a significant amount of money over what we were paying before.”

RECs aren’t units of energy. They’re credits affirming the origin of the school’s power, which can’t be traced otherwise.

“At this moment we’re only purchasing these RECs, and what those are are certificates from the generators of green energy… saying X units of energy was produced,” Carioscio adds.

“The district signed a contract to purchase energy (and) something called a renewable energy credit,” saysDirector of Purchasing and Transportation Carolyn Gust. “Those are two separate things, so you’re getting your electric from the power grid – all the power that goes into the electric grid could be solar, could be wind, it could be carbon, it could be geothermal.

“There’s no way to figure out what’s coming out. Electrons are electrons: they’re not gonna be green or brown; they’re just gonna come out of the system, so what you do is you purchase… a renewable energy credit, and that is basically… something allow(ing) an organizationto say that the energy they’re purchasing is green, because you’re giving money to the wind farm.”

Saving thousands of dollars a year now, OPRF has more money to use on future projects, such as the upcoming slew of building renovations.

“Every time we save more money, it gives us opportunities to use that for other things,” said Carioscio. It “could be used for different student programs or… we don’t have to… tax as much. We happen to have a new project where we’re building a cafeteria and student resource center.”

Another renovation, possibly allowing OPRF to continue using green power after the expiration of the new contract, is the roof renovation described by Director of Building and Grounds Fred Preuss. “We’re replacing the roofs through the school, and then when that project iscompleted, we are going to look with partnering up with a solar provider for producing energy,” he says. “They are starting in June of 2020 and will probably be done around 2022 or 2023.”

David Dodge