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Winds of change

Columbus Dispatch|Dan Gearino|February 11, 2009
OhioEnergy Policy

Ohio's wind-energy system consists of five wind turbines, barely enough to power a small town. That wasn't much of a concern until May, when Gov. Ted Strickland signed a law that says investor-owned power companies need to get 12.5 percent of their capacity from renewable sources by 2024. Half of that energy needs to come from within Ohio. American Electric Power took a step toward the goal yesterday with the announcement that it will bring 100 megawatts of wind power to Ohio, the largest such transaction under the new law.


Responding to a new law on renewable energy, AEP will bring 100 megawatts of wind power to Ohio

Ohio's wind-energy system consists of five wind turbines, barely enough to power a small town.

That wasn't much of a concern until May, when Gov. Ted Strickland signed a law that says investor-owned power companies need to get 12.5 percent of their capacity from renewable sources by 2024. Half of that energy needs to come from within Ohio.

American Electric Power took a step toward the goal yesterday with the announcement that it will bring 100 megawatts of wind power to Ohio, the largest such transaction under the new law.

Columbus-based AEP will buy the power from a wind farm in northwestern Indiana. The purchase is part of a larger transaction that will bring 250 megawatts to several parts of AEP's 11-state territory.

With 100 megawatts, AEP would have enough power to cover about 1 percent of the energy used by its Ohio customers, or roughly enough to meet the annual power needs of 22,500 ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

Responding to a new law on renewable energy, AEP will bring 100 megawatts of wind power to Ohio

Ohio's wind-energy system consists of five wind turbines, barely enough to power a small town.

That wasn't much of a concern until May, when Gov. Ted Strickland signed a law that says investor-owned power companies need to get 12.5 percent of their capacity from renewable sources by 2024. Half of that energy needs to come from within Ohio.

American Electric Power took a step toward the goal yesterday with the announcement that it will bring 100 megawatts of wind power to Ohio, the largest such transaction under the new law.

Columbus-based AEP will buy the power from a wind farm in northwestern Indiana. The purchase is part of a larger transaction that will bring 250 megawatts to several parts of AEP's 11-state territory.

With 100 megawatts, AEP would have enough power to cover about 1 percent of the energy used by its Ohio customers, or roughly enough to meet the annual power needs of 22,500 to 30,000 homes.

Financial terms of the 20-year contract were not disclosed. The wind farm is being developed by BP Wind Energy and should be online by the end of this year.

"This is a very positive step forward," said Amanda Wurst, spokeswoman for Strickland. The governor "is proud of the tangible results that are beginning to take shape."

Ohio has only five utility-grade wind turbines within its borders. They generate 7 megawatts, which would power about 2,000 homes.

Utility officials say wind power probably will account for most of the new mandate. To get there, the state's homegrown wind power would need to grow by more than 400 times.

The state's largest wind turbine projects are nowhere close to breaking ground. No project has been approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board.

"I'm hoping by 2011, some shovels will turn," said Jay Godfrey, managing director of renewable energy for AEP.

The walls of his Downtown office are covered with maps showing the country's existing wind, solar, biomass and geothermal power sites. On his desk is a metal replica of a wind turbine, about a foot tall.

Hardin County, northwest of Columbus, is a focal point for potential projects, with 12 developers in various stages of exploration, according to the Ohio Department of Development. AEP has announced plans to test the feasibility of building turbines in Morrow County, north of Columbus.

Tom Maves, who oversees wind-energy projects for the Department of Development, thinks at least one of the potential projects will get under way before the end of 2010. He said several of the early proposals are for wind farms with more than 100 turbines, generating more than 100 megawatts -- much larger than anything ever seen in Ohio.

"Of course, the economies of scale are much better when we get more than 100 megawatts," he said.

But the new law won't wait until 2010 or 2011. Companies such as AEP will need to meet an escalating series of benchmarks on the way to the final goal of 12.5 percent. The 2009 benchmark is 0.25 percent, and 2010's is 0.5 percent. With yesterday's announcement from AEP, the company should easily meet this year's goal.

Notably, the only benchmark for Ohio-generated power is the final one in 2024. By then, half of the renewable power must come from within the state. Power companies can rely on electricity generated in other states for the first few years of the new rules.

That's a relief for the companies, considering the small size of Ohio's wind-energy infrastructure. The state has one wind farm, in Bowling Green, with four turbines built beginning in 2003. The only other turbine is at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, built in 2006.

Ohio's output ranks 31st out of the 35 states that have at least one industrial wind turbine, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

Maves estimates that to meet the state requirement, companies will need to have 6,000 megawatts from renewable sources, half of which must be from Ohio.

AEP's share of the total likely will be about 2,000 megawatts, Godfrey said. Ohio utilities Duke Energy, FirstEnergy and Dayton Power & Light also are subject to the requirements.

There are plenty of potential obstacles. First of all, Ohio isn't particularly windy, ranking 36th in the country in "potential capacity," according to the wind-energy association. The windiest states are in the heart of the country, reaching from Minnesota to Texas.

Also, wind power poses some environmental problems. The turbines kill birds and bats, and some neighbors think the devices ruin otherwise pristine views.

The hurdles are minor compared with the environmental and economic benefits, said Amy Gomberg, program director for Environment Ohio, an advocacy group. She describes the new law as a long-awaited attempt to change Ohio's reputation as a purveyor of dirty energy.

"I think Ohio has always been viewed as a coal state, and I think the times are changing," she said.

The state government sees the growth of wind energy as an opportunity to attract jobs and investment. Maves points to a Department of Energy study that estimates that 1,000 megawatts of wind-energy capacity would lead to an economic benefit of $1.3 billion, 3,000 construction jobs and 500 maintenance jobs.

He counts 200 Ohio companies that are involved in the industry. He expects the number to grow.

"That's what we do. We make stuff," he said.


Source:http://www.dispatch.com/live/…

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