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FHSU wind turbines keep tuition lower

6/13/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University tuition is projected to increase by 2.68 percent for the 2015 fiscal year. That would equal a $3 per credit hour increase for undergraduate residents and a $4.48 increase for graduate residents.

The average increase for a public four-year university is 4.3 percent, according to the College Board, an annual survey of colleges.

"The low tuition increase is made possible by a number of things," said FHSU President Edward Hammond. "Most significantly was the implementation of our wind project."

The wind energy project uses two wind turbines to offset the energy costs to the university. Currently, 80 percent of all electricity on campus is produced from the wind turbines. That results in an estimated $750,000 to $1 million savings per year, Hammond said.

The turbines were installed last summer, and all but five buildings are supported by wind energy.

"All buildings will be moved over (to wind energy) by August," said Keith Dreher, physical plant supervisor of Akers Energy Center at FHSU. "Once fully installed, the wind turbines will single-handedly fuel the electricity for the campus as long as the wind is blowing. If the wind is blowing, which it does a lot around here, we'll be totally self-supported."

FHSU is supported by Midwest Energy when the wind isn't blowing.

The vision began six years ago and cost $9 million.

"It was purely economics," Dreher said. "That was president Hammond's vision, to be able to bring this technology to the university. We have a great wind source in Kansas. It seemed like a good fit for us."

The wind turbines have produced 7 million kilowatt hours so far, equaling $50,000 a month.

"This savings permits us to not have to raise tuition as much as other schools in the region," Hammond said.

Dreher said FHSU is the first school in Kansas to rely solely on wind energy.

"It's pretty much a flawless project," he said. "It integrated to the campus system very well. We haven't had any power-quality issues. It's working really well and definitely paying for itself."