With a modest population of 2,500 located just miles from the Nebraska border, some may think Wray, Colorado is simply another sleepy agricultural town facing increasing economic challenges. But through progressive initiatives led by Wray's school district, this community is rallying together to fight budget cuts and population loss in a very unconventional manner -- by building a 335 ft. wind turbine. Construction is under way this week, and on February 15th at a ceremony with Governor Ritter, the Wray School wind turbine will propel this quiet town into a clean energy economy and as a leader in community-owned renewable energy projects.
Despite an ideal geographic location for wind energy development and generous funding; project start-up costs proved to be too vast. Having exhausted every resource, the Wray School wind project stalled in development, lacking further access to necessary investment capital. NativeEnergy, the leading marketer of high quality carbon offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs), stepped in to bridge the roughly 14-percent funding gap the project needed. Without NativeEnergy's upfront purchase of the project's projected lifetime REC output, Wray's community wind turbine would not have been built.
"Once I had NativeEnergy's contract in hand, that did it. I had what we needed and I called the manufacturer and placed the order," says Ron Howard, Wray School District Superintendent. "The funding made available by selling the RECs to NativeEnergy makes up substantially the amount we were in deficit, and enabled us to see this project finalized. What a day this is, to see that tower going up finally after we thought the project was dead."
Enduring several years of extreme budget cuts and declining student attendance, the Wray School District looked for opportunities to establish an additional revenue stream and enhance the educational curriculum. A high school instructor introduced the idea of reducing the district's annual energy costs while providing a unique educational component: a 900 kW community-owned wind turbine. Seeing a special opportunity, the project was approved with support of Wray's school district.
"The Wray School District wind turbine project again demonstrates our commitment to supporting only high-quality projects that have both a positive impact on the environment and incorporate social values," says Tom Boucher, President and CEO of NativeEnergy. "Our strong commitments to community engagement and real, effective solutions to the climate crisis make the Wray School wind project a perfect fit."
The magnitude that one up-front investment can have on determining if a project becomes a reality serves as a concrete example of the importance of "additionality" and supporting the creation of truly new renewable energy projects. NativeEnergy's involvement in the project demonstrates the power that forward stream carbon offset purchases have on the success of projects that can't rely on the expectation of carbon revenues over time, in an uncertain market. Through the support of NativeEnergy's clients, who offset their carbon footprints, the Wray project will come online February 15th -- generating enough energy to power the school district, most of the town, and will create a stream of revenue that will be invested back into the school and the community.