Wind Energy Highlighted

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iStockphoto.com/Wiktor Bubniak
Research shows locally owned small wind plants generate more local income and create more jobs than a single large facility.

Administration
officials and wind energy stakeholders agreed to pursue a series of steps to
remove barriers to the development of community wind facilities and distributed
wind systems.

Updating or
creating financing mechanisms that can generate small wind development was a
top priority among proposals agreed upon by representatives of USDA, Department
of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense, the Fish
and Wildlife Service, and several stakeholder groups at a forum hosted by the 25x’25
Alliance at
USDA.

“Community and
distributed wind projects are an important element of our nation’s energy
strategy and the role federal agencies can and should play to support their
development drove our discussion,” says Peggy Beltrone, president of Exergy
Integrated Systems, a member of the National 25x’25 Steering Committee, and
co-chair of the recent roundtable.

Forum
participants agreed to continue meeting in the near term to further address
financing, policy, deployment and social acceptance barriers to community wind.
To be discussed in future sessions will be the re-engineering and streamlining
of existing federal programs, and the tailoring of federal procurement programs
to incentivize the development of community wind facilities.

“Community
wind projects support multiple national goals, providing clean and secure
energy and rural economic benefits,” Beltrone says. “Federal agencies
have the power to clear a path for this important segment of renewables by
coordinating efforts through, for example, funding from USDA’s Rural Energy for
America Program (REAP). Under the auspices of USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan,
(this) roundtable discussion showed that these agencies are willing to use their
collective power and to advance right-sized solutions for Rural
Americans.”

Roundtable
participants learned that community wind emphasizes local ownership and
encompasses a broad range of formats, from private partnerships among rural
landowners, to projects by consumer-owned utilities, schools and native tribes,
to collaborative structures that engage outside organizations, though generally
leaving local owners with more significant returns than utility-scale wind
projects.

Because of the
typically smaller scale of the projects involved, individual landowners and
local institutions such as schools, towns, counties and tribes can bring their
own financial and political assets to the table. Furthermore, community wind
can be a pathway for collaborations between major wind developers and local
communities, advocates say.

Community wind
currently makes up about 4 percent of total U.S. wind power capacity, but
interest is surging. Advocates point out that a small-scale community wind
project can be a useful tool to gauge whether a site has potential for future
expansion, and often increases community support for siting new wind projects.
Smaller community wind installations also can fit into niches where
transmission capacity is limited, and strengthen local distribution networks by
putting supply near the load.

A recent DOE
study compared economic impacts of one large 40-megawatt (MW) plant owned by
outside investors to 20 smaller, locally owned 2-MW plants, finding that the
latter generated $4 million in local income compared to $1.3 million that stays
local from an outside-investor owned facility. The smaller, locally owned
plants also create 41 jobs, the DOE says, compared with just 18 at the single,
larger facility.

Another recent
DOE study estimates that the United
States has more than 8,000 gigawatts (GW) of
available, land-based wind resources that industry officials believe can be
economically developed. Furthermore, a 20-percent share of U.S.
electricity would require only 300 GW to be on-line by 2030.

Distributed wind
power on farms, residences, military sites and public buildings can play a
prominent role in the nation’s energy strategy just like community wind.
Distributed wind, advocates say, is heavily dominated by domestic small,
entrepreneurial manufacturers, and can stay that way with the right policies in
place. Distributed wind is often “behind the meter,” directly serving
the owner, and providing consumer choice, significant savings, energy security
and independence to the user, while also creating environmental progress.

“Although
large-scale wind development along the corporate model will likely continue as
the dominant form in the United
States,” Beltrone says, “community
and distributed wind are already demonstrating its potential to make a far
greater contribution.”

For more
information, check out Community Wind101: A Primer for Policymakers, a report that makes clear community wind
must be an integral part of the nation’s energy strategy and lays out a set of
public policies designed to grow local wind investment and ownership.

25x’25 is a
diverse alliance of agricultural, forestry, environmental, conservation and
other organizations and businesses that are working collaboratively to advance
the goal of securing 25 percent of the nation’s energy needs from renewable
sources by the year 2025. 25x’25 is led by a national steering committee
composed of volunteer leaders. The 25x’25 goal has been endorsed by nearly
1,000 partners, 34 current and former governors, 15 state legislatures and the
U.S. Congress through The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. 25x’25
is a special project of the Energy Future Coalition (EFC). The EFC is a broad-based
non-partisan public policy initiative that seeks to bring about change in U.S. energy
policy to address overarching challenges related to the production and use of
energy.