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State News: August 2009


Blowing in the Wind

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Transmission Lines Now a Must

Several of the states with significant wind are seeing their energy levels reach a critical mass. Anything more than a particular state needs will need some help getting to the rest of the country. And that means work on the electric grid will be necessary, many of them say.
“The federal government is going to have to do something,” Stadler of Oklahoma said. “The grid was put together in a sense to help manage loads over some areas. But there’s no such thing as a national grid that makes any sense. What we call a grid is actually a cobbled together bunch of lines put up by companies and never intended to interconnect nationally.”
But many state officials aren’t waiting on the federal government to take action; they see the need for interconnectedness and are working toward that goal.
Governors from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, for instance, signed onto the Upper Midwest Transmission Development Initiative in September 2008 to develop a regional transmission buildout plan. Rauschenberger of North Dakota said those efforts are important to his state.
“It’s developments like these that will allow North Dakota to exceed the already significant installed wind that has taken place in the state,” he said.
North Dakota, ranked first for wind capacity, has 850 megawatts of wind power installed or under construction. That can power more than a quarter million homes, Rauschenberger said. On wind alone, he said, North Dakota generates double the electricity it consumes.
In Colorado, which ranks 11th in wind power and sixth in wind capacity, a new group—the Clean Energy Development Authority—is looking at ways to develop transmission in the state, according to Newton, of the state’s wind program. That group will look at everything from financing to location and operation, she said.
“Most of our transmission is at capacity,” Newton said. The state built some transmission capacity a few years ago, but nothing beyond what was required for new wind farms, she said. That means exporting the power generated by wind has hit a roadblock.
Kansas is working with other states in a group to plan regional transmission of electric power. The state has the potential to create 20,000 megawatts of wind power, Parkinson said, “but only if we have the transmission to export the wind power.”
But Ward of Mesa Power said the country needs a more cohesive plan among states to address the transmission issue. “Historically, transmission in this country has been built on a state by state basis,” he said. “It’s very piecemeal and it’s very difficult to move power from point A or point B if you’re crossing state lines.”
Until the transmission issue is addressed, he said, the U.S. won’t be able to reach its full potential with renewable energy—and that includes wind energy.
“There are some states—and even some areas in states that have wind—where those citizens don’t get the benefit or won’t get the benefit until we have a cohesive plan where we can move this power to all parts of the country,” Ward said.
The economic stimulus package approved by Congress includes funding for transmission lines to move electricity from wind farms and solar installations, many in the West and Southwest, to consumers in the rest of the country.
Detweiler said action at the federal level—with the stimulus bill, a national renewable energy standard and national transmission legislation—are very important in the success of wind energy.
“There’s a lot of congestion in the energy markets,” Detweiler said. “It’s very difficult to move power around long distances.
“If you have a national grid, it’s going to facilitate the movement of power and across the board will make cheaper power available because cheaper power won’t be caught in various pockets around the country but will be able to move around and flow to other markets.”
Pickens and others admit there was more attention paid to renewable energy when n oil was selling at more than $100 a barrel and the price of gasoline topped $4 a gallon. But Ward said the fact that the price is hovering around $40 a barrel now shouldn’t create a false sense of security.
“The price of oil is going to come back in a big way. We will end up paying for that if we don’t have an effective energy policy,” Ward said.
—Mary Branham Dusenberry is managing editor for State News magazine.


Where the Wind Blows

The United States has more than 20,000 megawatts of installed wind energy generating capacity. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the installed wind power fleet was expected to generate an estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours of wind energy in 2008, slightly more than 1 percent of U.S. electricity supply—that could power more than 4.5 million homes.
The association estimates the U.S. could generate 10,777 billion kilowatt-hours annually—more than twice the electricity generated in the country today—if the total wind energy potential were harnessed.
Here’s the top 10 states for wind energy potential and the estimated billions of kilowatt-hours that could be generated, as determined by the American Wind Energy Association.

State Actions on Wind

Thirty-nine states have some sort of wind energy program and many of them offer incentives, ranging from anemometer loan programs—to measure wind capacity in a particular area—to tax credits. Those are in addition to the federal production tax credit, which most believe is the prime incentive for the development of wind. Here’s a look at incentives offered in a few states:
Colorado: The Governor’s Energy Office has established a number of public-private partnerships to promote Colorado’s vast renewable energy potential, such as wind. In addition, the state passed a net metering bill, which allows homeowners with a small wind turbine to feed excess energy back into the system and receive a rebate on utility bills, according to Mona Newton, the state’s wind program manager.
North Dakota: The state takes a three-pronged approach for developing the wind industry: a sales tax exemption for equipment, significant property tax reductions and an income tax investment credit, according to Ryan Rauschenberger, manager of energy business development for the state.
Ohio: Through the Department of Development, Ohio offers incentives for the production of wind energy based on the mega-wattage produced, according to Mark Shanahan, the governor’s energy adviser. That can apply to commercial wind farms as well as smaller-scale residential and industrial applications.
Oklahoma: The state offers a small production tax credit as well as a five-year property tax break. “Our incentives are not very big compared to a number of other states,” said Steve Stadler of Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative. “Still we make money with the wind because the wind resource is so good.”
Texas: The state allows local taxing authorities to create an exemption for the new taxable wind energy equipment that may be installed for a period up to 10 years, said Dub Taylor, director of the State Energy Conservation Office.
For more information on state wind programs, visit the U.S. Department of Energy Web site at
—Mary Branham Dusenberry is managing editor for State News magazine.
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