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Wind Power, Poised for Take Off?

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

year in lease payments or royalties for every wind turbine installed on their land, while continuing to raise crops and livestock up to the base of the turbines.

Can Wind Fly on its Own?
Economics, reliability issues favor wind power, say proponents.

With the lights flickering in California, energy gurus, as well as legislators, are scrambling for a way to keep them on. In Texas, meanwhile, legislators decided clean energy is good, and they needed more of it. So, they passed a bill that said renewable energy resources would increase in that state by 2000 MW by 2009. What do both states have in common? They' re both looking at wind energy as the answer to each respective situation.

In the Southwest, there' s a saying: "Everything is bigger in Texas." That rings true with wind farms, too. As was mentioned in the accompanying text, the King Mountain project currently under construction in West Texas is one of the largest to ever be constructed, says the American Wind Energy Association. But, with Mother Nature being as fickle as she is, why choose wind over hydro or other renewable choices?

"Wind is probably the quickest and easiest to build," says Roy McCoy, manager of the renewable energy credit trading program for ERCOT. "It' s one renewable source we haven' t got a lot of here in Texas, so the market is wide open. ... It' s also easy to develop. The technology is good enough now to make it dependable, and quicker to put up."

? "Well, if the wind doesn't blow, we don' t get any electricity," says McCoy. "But, when the wind is blowing, we take it."

Despite the unreliability of the wind blowing, McCoy says another reason to use wind power is cleanliness. "It' s the cleanest energy source out there. There are no emissions associated with it. So, that' s good. It' s easier and cheaper to build, and a lot of it comes down to money. ... The real push [to wind power] came from Gov. Bush, when he was in office. His office pushed for clean air generation in Texas, because quite honestly, we don' t have a lot of it here," he says.

In California, with electricity prices soaring this summer, and rolling blackouts becoming a commonplace thing, state legislators are looking at alternative methods to keep the lights on. One method is wind power. Wind projects that had been on the back burner in California have now been moved to the front, and are under construction. Why wind power in California? "Why not?" says Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director of the California Energy Commission. "Wind power for California is the perfect match for when we have our peak demand - hot summer afternoons. Our peak demand is in the afternoon - particularly hot summer afternoons, when air conditioning loads are high. And when do the winds blow the hardest in California?" Yep, you guessed it. Hot, summer afternoons.

California, much like Texas, would also like to see their renewable energy resources dramatically increase over the