Wind Farms Sprouting New Energy

By: Lisa McDivitt Email
By: Lisa McDivitt Email

There will soon be another option for energy users in Colorado, with the announcement of a new wind power farm that is set to be built on the eastern plains of the state.

The announcement was made yesterday by utility supplier Tri-State, who is teaming up with Duke Energy to build the wind farm east of Denver. The plans are supported by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, whose office of energy is focusing on projects involved in renewable resources.

So what is the wind power landscape on the Western Slope? Here in Grand Junction, the owners of Tomorrow Hill Farm are focused on using sustainable resources for its energy. One of those sources is through wind power, but you won't find a wind turbine in sight on their property.

That's because they buy their power from Xcel Energy, like most of us. The difference is that they specify that it comes from wind power.

Yesterday, Tri-State, another energy supplier in Colorado, announced that it would offer a similar deal. By buying some of their power from a wind farm, they will expand their options for power beyond just coal and natural gas.

This is just the type of wind power that one local sustainable energy expert says is the most feasible, particularly for those living on the Western Slope.

"What I see in wind power is larger, huge industrial wind farms, rather than wind power in people's back yard," says Virgil Boggess, owner of Atlasta Solar. "I think we're just at the beginning. I think wind power's great, if you've got the wind."

Boggess adds that he doesn't actually recommend that you buy a wind turbine for your house. One reason? Wind just doesn't blow enough here.

On a color-coded map of the state, all of the color denoting wind is on the Front Range. On the Western Slope, however, there is very little color at all. To be effective, turbines like the one he showed us yesterday, need 11 miles per hour of continuous wind in order to power a house.

If you do want to opt in to the wind power that's offered by your utility company, there's a premium to do so. According to representatives at Xcel Energy, it comes to 1.6 tenths per kilowatt hour more than what you would typically pay for power.

Representatives from Xcel say that about 50,000 of their roughly 1.4 million customers in Colorado have chosen to pay extra for wind powered utilities... Mostly so they can say they get their power from wind instead of coal or natural gas.

It's a decision that the folks who own Tomorrow Hill Farm think is worth the fee because the environmental costs are less, even if it's harder on their pocketbook.

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