UI’s multi-million dollar turbine project gets nixed

Students learned that the University’s proposed wind turbine project will be canceled after a meeting Tuesday with University President Michael Hogan and Interim Vice President and Chancellor Robert Easter.

Members of Students for Environmental Concerns, or SECS, and the Student Sustainability Committee, or SSC, were told the proposal has been canceled due to Urbana’s concerns over the project.

Eric Green, member of SECS and graduate student, attended Tuesday’s meeting. He said the Board of Trustees set up the Audit, Budget, Finance and Facilities committee to evaluate the turbine. The committee decided on the project’s cancellation because of Urbana residents’ complaints over the turbine’s proposed placement, as well as the project’s economic feasibility.

“They’ve been telling us this project is going to happen, but now the project’s feasibility with cost-cutting and not being able to work with community partners is more prevalent than addressing student concerns,” Green said.

The project, which would have constructed a 1.65 megawatt turbine on the University’s South Farms, was estimated to generate 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually as part of the campus’ Climate Action Plan, or iCAP.

SECS and the SSC were asked by the administration to draft a list of alternative sustainable initiatives that are included in the iCAP report that would act as alternative plans to the turbine project. These could include a Campus Clean Energy Revolving Loan Fund for investment in sustainable energy, native landscaping and a campus-wide battery recycling program.

Suhail Barot, chair of the SSC, said although the committee is disappointed with the outcome of the project, students will continue to work with the University to promote alternative sustainability projects.

“Students have committed $640,000 through their environmental fees toward this project, and it served as the original impetus to create these fees eight years ago,” Barot said. “Nonetheless, we hope to continue working with the University administration to develop additional successful sustainability projects.”

While the suggested initiatives may be more monetarily feasible, none are of the same magnitude as the turbine project, Green said.

“The turbine was the largest capital project of sustainability on campus, and nothing can replace it on the terms of symbolism,” he said. “Other projects could be much more cost-effective and rewarding with return on investment, but their connection to sustainability for the average student isn’t as direct.”

University administrators were unavailable for comment.