Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Wind in Rockford

Note to my readers. I live in Rockford, Illinois. This was written about two years ago or so. It pertains to the problem of government impeding the process of letting people get what they want. Rules need to be fixed but variable. I hope that is clear.

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What are the prospects for wind energy in Rockford? In the short term not very good. The United States Government at:

Wind Power Maps

has maps showing the wind potential of every state of the union. Even though Illinois is rated as the 16th best possible production state for wind power most of the state is rated as marginal to fair in terms of site economics. The best general site is between Springfield and Quincy which runs in the fair to good category. Local conditions such as the amplifying effects of hills can increase the economics of certain sites even if siting windmills across the landscape is not feasible.

Generally what you have to do in these cases is to do a year long site survey. You do this by erecting a tower and mounting instruments on it. If there is already a long history of instrumentation at a site but not at the right place or height it may be possible to do a correlation with existing data and reduce the time it would take to do a survey with reasonable confidence of the results.

Since Rockford is in the marginal category we would need quite a bit of field work done before siting our first wind turbine. What we want to look for is wind amplifiers. Places that channel the prevailing wind from a wide area to a narrow one. A topographical feature that doubled the wind velocity would change a site from marginal to superb. An increase of as little as 25% could change a site from marginal to good.

To make wind energy more than a hobby in Rockford will require that we do some intelligent prospecting. Fort Collins, Colorado which is in an outstanding area (just short of superb) has had a wind energy program for some years. They handle the whole thing in a most democratic way. Those who want wind power pay 2.5 cents more per kilowatt hour and the power can be bought in blocks of five dollars. Thus those on a fixed budget need not pay more and those who want to pay for a move to renewables can do so in affordable increments. For those who wish the company can also charge all your useage every month to renewables. To find out more about their energy program and their installed wind turbines go to:

What the paper work looks like

and

Wind Turbines

The thing to do here in Rockford is to try and get Com Ed to take more of our money based on the source of the electricity we want to buy. They should do something like this state wide it is true. But since they have to start somewhere let it be Rockford.

Which brings me to the question of subsidies. In past years the Federal government has provided a subsidy of about 1.5 cents a kilowatt hour for wind electricity. This just about covers the cost difference between the current cost of coal electricity and the cost of wind. It is one of the reasons 1,700 Megawatts of wind was installed last year in the US of A. 1,000 Megawatts in Texas alone. In fact Enron is slated to deliver a very large percentage of those megawatts. The people Enron employs on these wind projects are still at work. So what should be done about the subsidies? As you know I am very anti-tax and pro-small government so I want to announce here that I am about to violate my principles. Since the industry is addicted to the subsidies and I believe wind energy converted to hydrogen is critical to reducing the amount of military effort we need to defend our energy supplies, I am in favor of a declining subsidy. Fix it to start at current levels and let it decline to zero over eight years. By that time through increased manufacturing efficiency wind will cost less than coal even without a subsidy.

In the long run the best answer to all this is to let well educated consumers make informed choices. If every household in Rockford signed up for a $5 a month boost to alternative energy there would be wind turbines sprouting at all the favorable sites in Rockford almost over night.

Unfortunately ComEd is a regulated utility so any change in the billing structure may require government approval. Can you believe it? We need government approval to pay more for our electricity! And they call this a free country.


M.L. Simon is an industrial controls designer and independent political activist

(c) M. Simon - All rights reserved.

BTW The subsidy was slated to be 1.8 cents per KWH this year but I don't know if it was approved by Congress. I'll update ya and have more good links.

Wind Power Monthly is from NZ but covers the world.

American Wind Energy Association covers the American scene plus they have a nice map and data on current projects.

This map shows what has been done so far - more than 6,000MW peak - roughtly 2 nuke plant equivalents!

John Atkinson over at winds of change linked to this. Some other nice energy updates there as well

John's Blog is here

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