Monday, March 27, 2006

Wind Energy Storms Onto the Stage

As we convert from a dependency on fossil fuels to using renewable energy to power our societies, it is good to take stock of our progress from time to time. Jim from The Energy Blog has provided this report that wind energy now costs less than conventional power sources.

....Xcel’s 33,000 Windsource customers, who until late 2005 were paying $6 more each month for their electricity, are now paying slightly less than those using conventional electricity, which comes mostly from natural gas and coal. To meet fast-growing demand, Xcel is currently soliciting proposals from wind developers for up to 775 megawatts of new wind power generation, enough to supply 232,000 Colorado homes with electricity.

Wind energy is also proving a boon to small ranchers, who will earn royalties from the energy generated by wind turbines placed on their property.

.... When Xcel announced it would develop several hundred megawatts of additional wind-generating capacity, it got the attention of ranching communities throughout wind-rich eastern Colorado. In tiny ranch-country towns like Grover, near the Wyoming border, ranchers welcomed a proposed 300-megawatt wind farm that would span some 30 ranches.

With a large, advanced-design wind turbine generating easily $100,000 worth of electricity per year, even a 3-percent royalty would earn ranchers $3,000 a year from leasing a quarter-acre of ranchland. And they can still run cattle on the land. If the proposed project is approved as expected, these 30 or so ranchers will have an average of seven turbines each, yielding roughly $21,000 a year in additional income. A decade from now, there may be thousands of ranchers who will be earning more selling electricity than they do selling cattle.

....Wind energy is emerging as a centerpiece of the new energy economy, because it is abundant, inexpensive, inexhaustible, widely distributed, clean, and climate-benign. Three of the 50 states—North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas—have enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs. The cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen from 38¢ per kilowatt-hour in the early 1980s to 4¢ to 6¢ today, offering an almost endless supply of cheap energy.

Read much more from this report from the Earth Policy Institute.

Renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wave, tidal, OTEC, and others, are developing solidly in the background, while the rest of the world continues to talk peak oil, and a war of the titans over oil.

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