Geneseo’s two wind towers — installed in 2009 — are part of a multi-pronged approach used to provide electric power to the community.
“Geneseo has benefited from a lot of forward-thinking people,” said alderman Keith Kennett, who serves as a liaison to the city’s electric department.
Geneseo’s Electric Utility began operation in 1933.
At a time when other communities had utilities focused solely on delivering electricity from outside sources, Geneseo’s was designed to generate and deliver power for the city.
“Geneseo generated the full power needs of the city from 1933 to 1973 at the North Street power station,” said Kennett.
If needed, the city’s electric utility could still power the entirety of the city’s needs by itself.
“We’ve always had enough to produce at the city’s highest load, plus have 15 percent in reserve,” said electric superintendent Lewis Opsal.
In 1984, Geneseo spent?$4.1 million to purchase part ownership in the then-new Louisa Generating Station, a coal-fired plant in Muscatine, Iowa.
“(The city council) at that time put a lot of money on something most people will never see,” said Opsal, adding the decision showed “tremendous foresight” on the part of the council.
The purchase provided the city with 3.2 megawatts of base-load power.
“Eight entities bought into the Louisa Generating Station,” said Opsal. “Mid American Energy owns the majority, but a few other towns in Iowa bought in. We’re the only Illinois town that did.”
Because power could be purchased cheaper than it could be generated at the North?Street plant, in 1984, Geneseo transitioned to purchase power for all operational needs.
The North Street site is used to provide back-up power generation and to provide power during peak hours.
Generating its own power during peak times — such as on a sweltering summer day — allows the city to reduce its purchase power costs, said Kennett.
In 2009, Geneseo added three megawatts of renewable energy generation to its capacity by installing a pair of Vensys wind turbines
“Geneseo is one of only a few communities in the region that has the ability to fully power its system at maximum loads,” said Kennett.
“Our utility department has very skilled staff. It’s rare to have outages lasting longer than 15 minutes,” he said. “I think, after awhile, people take that sort of thing for granted, but what’s the value to a business not to lose an entire day due to a power outage? What’s the value to a homeowner in not having to throw out an entire freezer full of food?”
The Geneseo Electric Utility has 20 employees who help serve the city’s 3,682 meters, of which 3,037 are for residential units.
“We have someone here 24/7, all year round,” said Opsal.