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Wind energy can relieve natural gas shortage, bring clean energy, income to family farmers

(Thursday, June 18, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- The following two items, the first a news story, and the second a news release, highlight the power of wind to generate clean energy and to provide income for family farmers and rural communities.

1. : website go to: Bureau Valley puts spin on power issue School district considers placing single wind turbine at school complex, Peoria Journal Star, 06/18/03: By BOB MORROW MANLIUS - The Bureau Valley School District is turning to wind power in a search for cheaper energy.

The district is investigating the feasibility of an on-site wind turbine on high school property in Manlius. The proposed turbine would provide power for the high school and the neighboring grade school.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Stoecker said Tuesday he and School Board member Keith Bolin have discussed the project with Illinois Power and Commonwealth Edison, as well as state Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria, and state Reps. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, and Don Moffitt, R-Gilson.

According to Stoecker, an on-site wind turbine could save the district a substantial amount of money in electricity. Currently, it costs $160,000 annually just to power the high school and the grade school.

A wind turbine would cost $600,000 to $700,000 to build, but it would save the district $100,000 each year in electrical costs, he said.

A 660-kilowatt turbine would use only about 70 percent of its capacity to power the two buildings. The remaining power would be sold to Illinois Power, he said.

Jay Haley, a wind-farm engineer and consultant from North Dakota, has been retained to conduct a study of the project and should have some firm data within the next six weeks, Stoecker said. The district also is looking for federal and state grants to help fund the project.

Stoecker said the project has been discussed for the past several months.

"We're looking at shortages in the building fund, and this seems a good way to cut expenses."

The turbine would be the first in the state on school property, Stoecker said.

"We like to think we're on the cutting edge with this," he said.

The project is completely separate from Bureau County's ongoing Crescent Ridge wind-farm project, Stoecker said.

Construction would take about six months, "so we're maybe a year and a half away from making it happen," he said.


2. News release from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): Wind energy is already helping to reduce the current natural gas supply shortage in the US, and could be deployed rapidly over the next few years to bring it under control, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The current supply shortage amounts to 3-4 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (Bcf/day), according to energy experts, and the increasing use of gas for electricity generation is one of the major causes of the shortfall. But in many areas of the country where wind farms are generating electricity, they are directly helping to conserve vital natural gas supplies.

"We estimate that the wind farms already in place, and those that will be installed by the end of this year, will be saving about 0.5 Bcf/day in 2004," said AWEA executive director Randall Swisher. "That means the natural gas shortage would be 10-15% worse if it were not for the relatively small amount of wind generation we have today."

In addition, Swisher said, rapid expansion of the nation's wind turbine fleet could sharply boost wind generation over the next four years, increasing its output to the equivalent of 3 Bcf/day (about as much natural gas as the states of Colorado and Alaska produce today). "Wind plants can be permitted and built relatively quickly -- typically, within one to two years," Swisher said. "AWEA has proposed specific transmission plans for 30,000 MW of wind in the Midwest and West. We believe that at least that much new wind development is feasible by the end of 2007 under strong policy leadership. AWEA expects a cumulative total of 6,000 MW of wind will have been installed in the U.S. by the end of this year."

The North American supply of natural gas is increasingly limited and despite rising prices, drilling rig counts are not increasing fast enough to keep pace with demand. With the depletion rate for new gas fields accelerating and continued demand for natural gas in electric generation applications, an ongoing long-term natural gas "crisis" is now a reality. Unlike natural gas prices, which are subject to the vagaries of the market, wind energy costs are predictable over time: once a plant is built, the cost of producing electricity is stable and the fuel source is free.

"The days of $2 gas are gone," Swisher said, referring to the historical market price for natural gas, which hovered just above $2 per 1,000 cubic feet (Mcf) prior to the California electricity crisis of 2001. "What we can look forward to instead is a price range of $4 to $5 per Mcf, with regional shortages and occasional spikes to $6-$10. The hardship this could wreak on consumers is severe. By contrast, wind energy is renewable and its cost from year to year is very stable. In addition, it works well in tandem with natural gas generation."

"Enacting the wind industry's national policy agenda now would provide certainty that we can avoid power generation problems in the future," declared Jim Caldwell, policy director for AWEA. "The agenda includes:

  • a five-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit (which expires Dec. 31, 2003, under current law);
  • tariff reform to increase effective transmission capacity on the current grid;
  • enactment of a national renewable portfolio standard to diversify the national utility generating portfolio; and
  • development of Trans-Prairie and Intermountain 'wind pipelines' (major upgrades of electricity transmission lines in those regions over the long term, at a cost of approximately $10 billion, or about half the cost of a proposed natural gas pipeline to Alaska now being considered by Congress).

"These effective, responsible solutions would create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in royalty income for hard-pressed farming and ranching states and provide stability to American businesses and consumers who expect to have power when they need it."

AWEA estimates that as many as 100,000 MW of wind in the US -- enough to power 25 million homes -- is feasible by 2013. Even at this level, wind's potential in the U.S. will not be tapped out. If gas prices remain in the $4 range, the total economically competitive U.S. wind resource is on the order of 600,000 MW.

For more information on wind energy development or AWEA's national policy agenda, visit the AWEA Newsroom on the World Wide Web at http://www.awea.org/newsroom

AWEA, formed in 1974, is the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. The association's membership includes turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals. More information on wind energy is available at the AWEA web site: http://www.awea.org

CONTACT: Christine Real de Azua, +1-202-383-2508, of AWEA

Related CropChoice news item: 'National survey shows corn growers overwhelmingly support wind energy,' http://www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?recid=1603