Cornwall school nets a ‘windfall’

CORNWALL — A Cornwall resident’s generosity is resulting in an unexpected and very literal “windfall” for the Bingham Memorial School.
The resident, Cynthia Haynie, is donating a 10kW wind turbine to the school, an amenity expected to trim the elementary school’s annual electricity bill by up to $1,500 while providing a hands-on tool for students to learn about renewable energy.
“It’s amazingly generous,” school Principal Jen Kravitz said of the donation, valued at around $60,000. And Haynie has even agreed to pay the costs of moving the slightly used turbine from her property and installing it on the school campus.
Haynie explained her Cornwall home was being served by two wind turbines at the time she bought her property a year ago.
“It turns out that the house really only needed one of the turbines to provide a substantial portion of power, so I started thinking about what I could do with the other turbine,” Haynie said in an emailed response to the Independent. “A friend of my sister’s, Bill Johnson, another Cornwall resident, suggested I contact the school to see if they would be interested in the turbine. He put me in touch with Jen Kravitz … and the rest is almost history.”
“Almost” history, because the turbine won’t be installed until this fall, as some final details need to be sorted out. But Kravitz noted the wind turbine move has already passed muster with the Vermont Public Service Board and local school officials. Cornwall selectboard members and planners have also weighed in favorably. And perhaps most importantly, school neighbors are also on board with having a turbine in the neighborhood, according to Kravitz, who reached out to local residents after Haynie had extended her offer.
“Everyone I talked to (about the turbine) had questions,” Kravitz said.
But those folks were apparently satisfied with the responses.
“No one spoke out against it,” she said of neighbors, “and some were overwhelmingly supportive.”
Here are some basic details about the Bergey Excel wind turbine destined for the Cornwall school:
•  It was purchased new in 2012 and has a lifespan of at least 30 years, according to Kravitz. The turbine is mounted on a 100-foot tower. Four guy wires are used to stabilize the turbine.
•  It is designed to work in a “highly inaccessible and hostile environment,” according to a school flyer about the project. It requires no lubrication and “mechanical problems are practically non-existent.”
•  It will be connected to the school’s current breaker box in the boiler room, through a cable buried at a depth of 2 feet. Plans call for the wind turbine to be sited just south of the school’s small garden.
•  It’s expected to emit sounds equivalent to “wind going through pine trees” when activated.
•  It’s a model already in use at elementary schools in Ferrisburgh, Addison, Danville, Mount Holly and Dover. Middlebury College also has the same type of windmill operating on its campus, according to project planners.
Last year’s power bill for the Cornwall school was $9,344, according to Kravitz. So a $1,500 annual turbine-derived savings could result in around a 15-percent reduction in energy expenses for taxpayers.
But dollars and cents aside, Kravitz is excited about the educational advantages of having an on-site wind turbine. She said students will be able to refer to the turbine as they study such subjects as energy efficiency, weather and math.
“This is an authentic place where we could collect data and use mathematical modeling to make predictions and consider ways we can reduce energy,” states a school flyer about the turbine acquisition.
Cornwall teachers have already put together innovative course work on environmental science, climate change and recycling, Kravitz noted. And students in recent years have done research into the school’s waste disposal, heating and energy systems, with the ultimate goal of devising ways to do more composting and recycling, while using less electricity.
Haynie is pleased that her donation will help save taxpayer dollars and at the same time contribute to the education of local children. She is a very accomplished engineer in her own right, with more than 30 years in the industry — including a very productive stint with NASA. While there, she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory initially developing, testing and programming the electrical power subsystem (solar arrays and batteries) for the Magellan spacecraft — also known as the Venus Radar Mapper — which she helped launch and fly from the JPL control center for several years.
“I was fortunate to be involved in several other unmanned spacecraft ventures, before turning my attention to the commercial software world,” she said.
“The ironic thing is, after leaving the NASA environment and entering the commercial world, the next 15 years of my career were in the energy industry, where I worked on software that managed trading, risk and logistics for all types of energy, mostly fossil fuels,” Haynie added. “So, I’ve kind of come full circle, back to my passion around renewables, but here on earth, rather than space. I know there is a lot of interest and action in Vermont around the topic of renewable energy, so I hope to become actively involved in those conversations.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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