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Wind Power, Poised for Take Off?

A survey of projects and economics.
Fortnightly Magazine - August 2001

utilities, thus omitting the merchant generation sector, and rendering the GTI data of little value for predicting growth in wind energy capacity.

In fact, GTI' s baseline forecast showed a decrease in net utility-owned generating capacity, down 2.7 percent from 1999 to 2020, but with utility owned renewable energy capacity virtually unchanged over the same period, and showing net increases in some regions, such as the Southwest Power Pool and the Southeastern Electric Reliability Council.

- B.W.R.

East Coast. Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia have put wind power on the map in the East as well. Pennsylvania' s second wind farm, Mill Run, currently under construction, will have a capacity of 15 MW, enough to power about 5,700 homes. Two other projects of 52 MW and 18 MW are also pending. In New York, five projects are currently proposed. The state' s market will get an additional boost from the implementation of Gov. Pataki' s recent executive order requiring all state agencies, including the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to purchase 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2005 and 20 percent by 2010. When completed, the first utility-scale wind farm in West Virginia, a 75-MW project located in Tucker and Preston counties, approximately 120 miles west of Washington, D.C., will be the largest in the Eastern States.

Scale and Impact

Of the numerous new projects currently planned, at least seven fall in the range of 100 to 200 MW, and three in the 200-plus-MW range.

These projects include (1) the 300-MW Stateline wind farm, under construction along the Washington-Oregon border; (2) the 278-MW King Mountain wind farm, under construction in West Texas; and (3) the 260-MW Nevada Test Site wind farm, to be installed on the federal government' s nuclear test site in Nevada. Such large wind farms deliver significant economies of scale.

The Stateline project, which would be the world' s largest single wind farm, is under development by FPL Energy. When fully operational, more than 450 wind turbines will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 70,000 homes annually - or about a third of the residences in Portland, Ore. PacifiCorp, through its non-regulated subsidiary PacifiCorp Power Marketing (PPM), would purchase the entire electricity output for marketing to customers in the West.

By year' s end, wind farms across the nation should be generating about 10 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually, enough to power one million average American households. This output would displace 7.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas associated with global warming, which would be emitted if the same amount of power were generated from the average U.S. electricity fuel mix. On average, a single wind turbine with a rated capacity of one MW displaces 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 10 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 6 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. Wind turbine operation causes little or no disruption to previously existing land use, such as farming and ranching. Moreover, farmers often profit directly from the wind turbines in their fields. Farmers can earn about $2,000 per