Wind turbine spinning savings for SBC

Nov 3rd, 2011 | By | Category: 23-2: Climate Commitment, Tribal College News

HARVESTING THE WIND. Sitting Bull College’s new wind turbine might save the tribal college $30,000 a year in energy costs. Photo by Ron Walters

On the heels of a U.S. Department of Education report that named Sitting Bull College (SBC, Fort Yates, ND) as the most affordable four-year college in the United States, the college completed construction of a new 40-foot tall, 100-kilowatt wind turbine to help offset the school’s annual operating costs.

According to SBC President Dr. Laurel Vermillion (Hunkpapa Lakota), “Forecasting revenue is always tricky, but the flip side is managing our operating costs effectively, especially since our utility costs run approximately $120,000 per year.”

The new wind turbine was connected to the Science and Technology Center in July 2011. It is forecast to save the college approximately $30,000 per year, with any surplus energy sold back to Mor-Gran-Sou, the local rural electric cooperative.

“This new addition to our campus couldn’t have come at a better time,” Vermillion says. “Every year we are looking at new ways for our college to operate more efficiently so we can pass along that cost savings to our students.”

Vice President of Academics Dr. Koreen Ressler directed the wind turbine project. “Planning began in July 2009. It was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Education Title III program,” Ressler says.

Once the funding was secured, the college board of trustees and administrators weighed several factors before moving forward with construction, such as the location. “The board of trustees and administrators wanted the turbine to be visible on the campus, but we also had to consider a location that would provide the most potential for wind,” Ressler says.

Edling Electric of Bismarck, ND, was the main contractor for the construction phase and worked closely with Northern Power Systems of Barre, VT, the supplier of the turbine. Project records show the turbine cost approximately $930,000, including engineering and construction costs.

In addition to the newly constructed turbine, the college also uses geothermal heating in all the buildings on the new campus, making it one of the most ultramodern campuses in the region.

Sitting Bull College embarked on a $40 million capital campaign to build a new campus in 1999, and as of June 2011 the entire operation is now located on the new campus. It includes a $83,000 Cultural Center, a $1.3 million student-family housing complex (18 units), a $6.5 million Science & Technology Center, $3.2 million Family Support Center, a $1.5 million Public Transit Center, a $3.6 million Entrepreneurial Center, a $2.6 million Student Support Center, a $1 million Finance Center, and $1 million Trades Center (building trades).

Plans for the immediate future include another, smaller wind turbine; installation of additional roads and lights on campus (Phase II); and a student efficiency apartment complex.

For additional information about the projects or Sitting Bull College, contact Dr. Koreen Ressler at (701) 854-8001, or email to

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