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Mass. school makes leap to wind power

After three years of planning, the city of Medford, Mass., dedicates a 100-kilowatt wind turbine at a middle school, having secured funding mainly through grants.

People gather after the ribbon cutting on a 100-kilowatt wind turbine at the McGlynn Middle School in Medford, Mass. Martin LaMonica/CNET Networks

MEDFORD, Mass.--Wind turbines themselves aren't exactly exotic--thousands of them are already installed around the world. But it is unusual to see a 150-foot-high turbine spinning next to a middle school football field.

The Boston suburb of Medford cut the ribbon on a 100-kilowatt wind turbine on Thursday in a ceremony that included speeches from the mayor and a long line of children. It is said to be the first commercial-size wind turbine installed at a public Massachusetts school.

The turbine at the John J. McGlynn Middle School will offset about 10 percent of the school's electricity, saving the city budget $25,000 a year.

"How long are we going to be dependent on other parts of the world for energy? Everybody talks about it, (but) nobody wants to do anything," Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn remarked after cutting the ribbon on the turbine.

Getting the turbine installed required a sustained commitment and creative thinking on financing, officials said.

Few municipalities have the money available to simply purchase a turbine. They typically cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to install. The city also faced opposition from people who feared that the turbine would be an eyesore, McGlynn said.

In the case of Medford, a clean-energy committee worked on the project for three years and was able to pay for it by raising about $650,000 in grants.

The savings from the turbine help finance the project as well, according to city officials who project that it will pay for itself in seven to eight years.

At one point, there was a possibility of raising money by selling the naming rights, as many sports stadiums have done. But the city was able to get a $100,000 grant from the nonprofit Mass Energy Consumers Alliance. One condition of the grant was a commitment to establish an education program in solar power and other types of alternative energy.

Education is a big part of the project's goal, according to McGlynn. Inside the school, there will be a display of how much electricity the turbine is producing.

During the ceremony in the school's auditorium, students spoke about how important alternative energy and the environment are to their future, which McGlynn said was "inspirational."

"It's not by chance that this (turbine) is down by the school," he said. "We want to educate...and it's the kids who always lead the parents."