Posts tagged Van Wert
By Erin Cox
The flowers of the future.
A 257-foot tall stem with three white petals spinning round in the wind and a generator in the center. The wind is strong today and the only noise that can be heard besides the rustling of the wind is the cars passing on a nearby road. Four wind turbines stand along the landfill on the edge of Bowling Green, Ohio. They are the first of many wind turbines that have popped up around the state.
Don Scherer of Green Energy Ohio helped get the wind turbines installed in Bowling Green in 2003 and 2004. He assisted in conducting the initial wind assessment of the area to see if the area’s wind was profitable as an energy source.
“It was a big deal then, but now they’re very small in the scale of what’s being done,” Scherer said.
Bowling Green’s four wind turbines put the city ahead of the rest of the state in 2003. According to Scherer, Daryl Stockberger, the Bowling Green Utilities Director during that time, took the initiative to make Bowling Green greener. Stockberger led the push to install the wind turbines, but now the city’s four turbines look small in comparison to the other wind farms being built around the state.
Ohio’s Renewable and Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard, a 2009 state law also known as Senate Bill 221, requires Ohio’s electric distribution utilities and electric service companies to generate 25 percent of their electricity sold from alternative energy sources. At least 12.5 percent of this must come from renewable energy resources, such as wind, and at least 0.5 percent from solar. The other 12.5 percent can come from other advanced energy resources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, advanced energy resources are any energy-making processes that do not produce any extra carbon dioxide, such as nuclear power and clean coal. Half of the renewable energy these companies generate must come from Ohio and that has led to the development of wind farms throughout the state.
Emily Sautter, Wind Program Manager for Green Energy Ohio, said that Ohio’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard has created a demand for wind energy in some portions of the state.
“The wind farms have to be in a good wind spot so folks can get reasonable payback for their investment,” Sautter said. “Southern Ohio doesn’t have the best wind, so they probably won’t see as many wind farms pop up around that area. But in 2003 and 2004, Bowling Green worked with Green Energy Ohio to do a resource assessment and found that it would be a good spot for wind turbines.”
Bowling Green’s Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the project cost several millions of dollars, which the city had to borrow to purchase the turbines. The city then entered a payback period where the money it made from the wind turbines would go to pay off the debt.
According to Scherer, Bowling Green’s wind turbines were bought with the idea that they would be paid off in 15 years from the energy produced. After paying off the cost of the turbines and building them, then the energy produced will be at its cheapest amount to buy.
Sautter said Bowling Green’s four wind turbines have performed at or above the expected amount of energy production.
Scherer also said Bowling Green’s wind turbines are ahead of the scheduled production. The wind turbines produce energy at capacity when the wind speed is between 19 and 33 miles per hour. The blades will turn at winds of three miles per hour, but the generator does not gage the rotation of the turbines until winds reach nine miles per hour. Currently the wind turbines are performing at an average of 25 percent capacity meaning a combined total of 1.8 megawatts of energy are produced an hour by the four wind turbines.
“Winds tend to pick up during the fall and intensify during the winter and stay strong until the end of May into June,” Scherer said. “Summertime sees the lowest productivity with 10 percent of production being done in the summer.”
Scherer said the initial wind assessment was conservative for financial reasons.
“You don’t want to overestimate the wind when it is such a large-scale financial investment,” Scherer said. “The wind was going to be good enough so at that point, you get into the next round of decisions, which is finding a site where a group of turbines can sit without blocking each others’ wind.”
Bowling Green’s municipal utilities is part of American Municipal Power, which is not one of the for-profit energy distribution companies that have to meet the Senate Bill 221 standards. As a nonprofit company, A.M.P. gets credit for the renewable energy it produces with the four wind turbines. Scherer said that if A.M.P wanted to, it could sell their credit to the mandated energy companies in Ohio to allow them to have that credit applied to their renewable energy resource requirement.
About 80 miles southwest of Bowling Green, along the county lines of Paulding and Van Wert, Ohio, the flowers of the future have become more like a field of corn. The wind turbines, 214 in total, scatter the fields of the area. Blue Creek Wind Farm operates 159 wind turbines built by Iberdrola Renewables, and the other 55 were built by Horizon Wind energy.
From four wind turbines sitting alongside Bowling Green’s landfill to now 214 wind turbines scattered throughout hundreds of acres of farmland, this is the look of the future of northwest Ohio.
Each of Blue Creek’s 152 wind turbines in Van Wert stands at 328 feet tall with a 148-foot long blade. People can catch a glimpse of the turbines spinning from miles away.
But, the massiveness of the turbines doesn’t have to be viewed only from far away. U.S. 30 runs alongside the wind farm all the way to the Indiana state line. Multiple turbines sit close to the road, giving drivers an easy distraction as they drive on the highway.
While some turbines stand in lines of five or six, others seem to have just popped up randomly in the middle of a field or in the backyard of a family’s home.
The drive that use to take forever with empty, dead fields during the winter, now seems to end too quickly as the wind turbines cause a hypnotic effect with the amazing expanse they cover.
O’Connell said that in 2010 Bowling Green already had 25 percent of its energy coming from renewable energy sources, only part of that was from wind. O’Connell said that he expects in 2015 the city to get 35 percent of its energy from renewable resources.
Bowling Green receives half of the energy from the wind turbines, and the other half goes to nine other communities who are part owners of the wind turbines.
According to O’Connell, the problem with wind energy in Ohio is that they are only performing at 25 percent of total capacity where as a coal plant produces energy at 90 percent of their capacity the majority of the time.
“With wind power, you can’t guarantee that wind will be there,” O’Connell said. “You have to realize that there’s a reduced capacity factor with wind power whereas with other energy sources, it can pretty much be guaranteed to generate a certain amount of energy.”
Not all wind turbines provide energy for the people of the county in which they are built though.
According to Sautter, the energy produced from the wind farm in Van Wert is disbursed to FirstEnergy customers. Iberdrola, the company that built Blue Creek Wind Farms in Van Wert, made a power purchase agreement with FirstEnergy giving it the ownership of the energy produced.
According to the Ohio Power Siting Board, Ohio has certified 662 wind turbines throughout the state with another 275 pending certification. This means the state can expect to have 937 wind turbines.
Stuart Siegfried of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission said the energy companies have been doing well so far. Each year has a benchmark that the companies must meet. It increases annually to make sure the company is on track to meeting the requirements of Senate Bill 221.
Scherer said that what made it easier for places like Kansas and the Dakotas, which has numerous wind farms across the state, is that the average farmer owns more farmland.
“The wind farms that are going up in Ohio spread across multiple farmer’s land,” Scherer said. “Many farmers have to agree and it’s a complicated dynamic to figure out how to get all the people to agree to give up some land for these.”
According to Scherer, the Ohio Farm Bureau has an employee, who is involved with Green Energy Ohio, to educate the farmers about the wind turbines and how little problems they cause.
According to Siegfried, 25 other states have a similar portfolio standard as Ohio does.
“Things have been looking good on the non-solar side. On the solar side, some companies have had problems with supply constraints,” Siegfried said.
Chad Smith, Deputy Chief of the Office of Energy in the Ohio Department of Development said while there has been an increase in wind farms in Ohio, Ohio’s main contribution to wind energy is the manufacturing of parts for the wind turbines.
If an energy distribution company does not make the benchmarks for the year, it has to give reasons for it. Seigfried said that if they have justifiable reasons, it can be excused, but the difference may be added on to the next year’s benchmark. Without justifiable reasons, the company will face some sort of fine or compliance payment.
Red flashing lights. As far as the eye can see, red flashing lights fill the night at the wind farms in Van Wert and Paulding.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the wind farms have synchronized the red lights of the hundreds of turbines so that planes can identify and avoid the wind turbines. The effect is entrancing.
Without knowing that the red lights sit on top of the wind turbines, passersby driving on the highway might have no clue as to what they belong.
The four in Bowling Green might be mistaken as radio towers, but the two hundred expanding across hundreds of acres of farmland, seems impossible to mistake as radio towers. Perhaps some day wind turbines will be the norm, the expected, and easily detectible at night by their synchronized, captivating red lights.
By Erin Cox
The first day of school. Those dreaded words popped up too early on the calendar every year, and the first day of kindergarten had no different feeling for me. I was not ready to go.
I put on my favorite t-shirt, one that looked like a faded American flag. My mom tied my long brown hair back in a ponytail with my bangs combed right on the front of my forehead.
My mom wasn’t ready to see her baby go off to kindergarten and I wasn’t ready to go. The half-mile drive down the street seemed like an eternity.
I was nervous walking up to Washington Elementary. Even though I had my older sister Ashley, a second grader, to show me what to do, I still had a death grip on my pink plastic “Beauty and the Beast” lunch box as my hands and the rest of my body shook nervously.
We walked toward the playground when suddenly Ashley spotted a friend and left my side.
“Ashley, what am I supposed to do?” I cried.
“I don’t know. Go play,” she responded unhelpfully.
There I was, on my own, my first day of school, and I had no idea of what to do. I decided to take Ashley’s advice and go play. But as soon as I reached the top of the steps for the monkey bars, the bell signaling the beginning of the school day rang and I quickly climbed back down.
I picked up my pink plastic lunch box and “Pocahontas” book bag and walked up to where all the other students were getting in lines.
This was it. No turning back now. I followed my line of students and off I went through the doors of Washington Elementary.
That day I became friends with two other kindergarten students, Weston Thompson and Brock Thatcher, whom I still consider my friends today, 15 years later. We have a picture of us sitting together that first day. For me, it tells all there is to know about my elementary school. Washington was that place where friendships and memories were made to last a lifetime.
Soon,though, Washington will exist only in our minds. All first through fifth grade students in Van Wert, Ohio, will go to a new school, Van Wert Elementary School in the fall of 2012. Students and teachers are excited to experience the opportunities the new school will bring. Soon after, Washington will be demolished. The home for so many childhood memories will no longer stand.
Now I’m a junior at Bowling Green State University and when I heard the plans to demolish Washington, I began reminiscing about my days at Washington.
I remembered five years ago when I went with my dad to visit his old elementary school in Arjay, Ky. The school hadn’t been used in years. Weeds covered the playground, and broken windows and graffiti marked the building.
I had thought it must be sad for him to see his school in such a pitiful state. I didn’t know it would be my turn soon.
I called my friend Brock, who I had met that very first day of school, as I wondered if I was alone in this disbelief that Washington would soon be gone.
“I honestly didn’t think they would do it,” Brock said. “I spent seven years of my life here, and now it’s like they don’t even care about it.”
I wanted to visit my elementary school one more time before its doomsday, so I went back to visit one last time.
It was a mild February day when I walked in my old school. The first place I came upon as I walked through the school was the stage that was the location of our music classes and holiday programs when I was a kid.
In second grade, I had the privilege of singing one of the solo parts in the song “The Friendly Beasts.”
“I remember about six or seven people had solos in the song and you were so confident,” Brock said.
I was shy back then, and the nervousness I had of singing a solo had caused me to continuously practice my part from the first day I was assigned it. The dress rehearsal had gone perfectly.
During the show, though, I started singing the wrong part. I quickly realized my mistake and few people probably even noticed.
I instantly started crying and refused to finish my part.The Christmas program went on and I left the stage still in tears when it ended.
Thankfully my friend Weston came to my side and said I had done well. Obviously, I knew I hadn’t, but my friend helped calm me down.
Now the stage looks like it’s being used for storage. All holiday programs in Van Wert are now held at the impressive Niswonger Performing Arts Center near the new elementary school and the relatively new high school and middle school.
The NPAC has a big stage with all kinds of lighting equipment and props, comfortable, padded chairs to sit and air conditioning. At Washington, metal foldout chairs were set up in the cafeteria for programs.
My elementary school programs might not have been in a fancy location, but they were that much more intimate. Being able to see the faces of my friends and neighbors in the audience made my embarrassing moment a little bit easier.
William Wisher, the current principal of Washington, thinks that people will miss this closeness.
“Going to the new building is going to be wonderful because it’s all brand new and there’ll be all kinds of opportunities out there, but it’s going to be larger,” Wisher said. “The smallness is what’s unique here.”
When I was in school, Washington was one of six elementary schools. All had grades kindergarten through sixth and kids went to the schools nearest their homes. Since then, the school number has lessened to four and of those, Washington is the only one that will be demolished after the consolidation.
Washington stands in a quiet, middle-class family residential area. I loved knowing that all the neighborhood kids went to the same school as me. The school was the designated meeting spot for friends to play. It seemed we all got along because we could easily maintain our friendships since we lived right next door.
Wisher also said that he would miss the look of Washington.
“Each school has its own personality about it,” Wisher said. “I’m going to miss the architecture that’s here. The way its looks with the wood trim, the solid doors. Those are things I like about the school.”
As I continued down the hallway of Washington, past the office, I remembered how we used to call this side of the hallway the “big kid” side. When I was here, kindergarten through third-grade students stayed on one side of the hallway. Fourth grade through sixth grade got to walk on the “big kid” side. All the younger students dreamed of the day when they walked on the much cooler side.
Now the school is only kindergarten through fourth grades, and students from all over Van Wert go to school here, rather than just the neighborhood kids.
Van Wert isn’t the only school that has started doing away with separate elementary schools in different neighborhoods. The trend has been catching on across the state.
View Van Wert Elementary Schools in a larger map
Van Wert City Schools Superintendent Ken Amstutz said the consolidation of elementary schools in a school district has been happening for quite awhile. This is in part due to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which works with local school districts to meet their needs, according to Ohio.gov.
For Van Wert City Schools, the consolidation started as a result of the commission offering to put $27 million into building construction for the school district, Amstutz said. The commission would give the school district the money only if one new elementary facility was built rather than rebuilding the separate schools.
When Van Wert City Schools entered into the agreement with the commission to split the $50 million cost of new construction, the school district paid for the building of the new middle school and high school while the state would pay for the new elementary school.
Amstutz said he thought the consolidation of the schools brought numerous advantages. For example, he said that having students together in one grade level together guarantees that all the students in the district are learning the same material. He also said that it is more economically efficient to maintain one school than four.
I wandered out to the playground. I knew from the quietness in the hallways that the students were elsewhere and it was easy to figure out where they were. I was lucky enough to come at the best time of the day – recess time. The screams, laughter and blowing of teachers’ whistles came from the direction of the playground. Recess hadn’t changed.
When I went here, “big kids” had the right to the big swings. I always preferred the bigger swings.
I could go higher and faster, and in sixth grade, my friends and I discovered the ability of the swings to twist in the air as we got as high as possible. We got in trouble during every recess. I wouldn’t say we were troublemakers, but we definitely knew how to push the limits.
As I watched the kids on the playground, I noticed the older kids huddled around the swings. It seemed that the “big kid” swings were still the most popular aspect of the playground.
Fourth graders Alexa Glossett and Ryan Chen both said Washington is where their friends are. That is why they like coming to school every day.
The transition to the new elementary school is exciting for them, even though they are sad that Washington will be demolished.
Fourth-grade teacher Carol Taylor has worked at Washington for 34 years. She went to school there as a child as well.
“It’s going to be bittersweet leaving here,” Taylor said. “I grew up in this neighborhood, so it’s going to make a big change.”
Taylor also said that it is the staff and students that make Washington special.
Washington will house pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students until Christmas break, but come summer 2013, Amstutz said Washington will be demolished.
Amstutz said that some mementos such as plaques will be taken to the new school. However, it is not these mementos that will make me and others who have gone to Washington remember our childhood days there. Instead, it will be friends, like Weston and Brock, whom I met back in kindergarten.
The building will be gone, but the memories will remain.