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Community Wind Has Big Role in Nation's 20% Wind Vision

Community Wind Has Big Role in Nation's 20% Wind Vision

Date: 3/24/2010

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Tom Wind, Wind Utility Consultant (MP3 2.6 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:49.

Wind Utility Consultant Tom Wind says a U.S. Department of Energy report has grabbed the attention of policymakers at the federal level. The report, released in the summer of 2008, looked at the feasibility of getting 20-percent of the nation's electricity from wind by the year 2030. And Wind says there's a real push to see if we can in fact reach that level in the U.S.

"What this means is, those states that don't have very good wind resources will probably not have many wind turbines. But other states that have a lot more wind, such as Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, states like that, will likely have to pick up the slack and get more than 20% of their electricity from wind power to compensate for the states that don't get as much."

According to Wind, community wind has a big role to play in that wind energy future because of the long-term benefits associated with community ownership. He says a community can invest in its own energy resource — bringing the benefits of the wind turbine home.

"It produces electricity at a nice stable cost that's not subject to inflation and is not subject to increasing prices for fossil fuels such as oil or gas or coal. So, if a community can invest in a wind turbine, then in the long run that is who is going to benefit most from that wind turbine. Large wind farms are often owned by large companies or utilities or corporations and they many not be based in the state. So the benefits from those wind farms largely go, not to the local area, but to the investors in the wind farm."

Keeping the benefits in the local community, Wind says, will ultimately increase public acceptance of the presence of wind turbines, which he says is needed in order to have large scale wind generation in the states.

Wind says this community wind model has already taken off in states like Minnesota and Iowa.

"Those two states have enacted policies or passed laws, or bills that encourage and incentivize these local projects. For example, they have a mandate for utilities in the state of Minnesota to buy power from locally owned or community owned wind projects at a price that is higher than the price that those utilities would buy power from a larger wind farm. And they justify this higher price based on the economic benefits that these community wind projects would bring to those local communities. So state programs, state policies, along with USDA programs, often provide enough incentives to get community wind projects off the ground."

Wind says Iowa and Minnesota are the most successful when it comes to encouraging small wind projects. He says other states should look at the policies and laws they have in place and replicate those for similar success with community wind.

This information was last updated on March 24, 2010