New Coalition Blows Wind Developers a Kiss of Support

WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2005 (ENS) - A national coalition of wind energy advocates is building a new pro-wind development support group to inform Americans about the benefits of wind power. Initiated by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the new group's purpose is to "act as a counterbalance to the misinformation being spread by wind energy opponents in communities across the country."

Called Wind Energy Works!, the coalition wants to become a "broad-based alliance of independent voices" providing a platform for organizations from the environmental, agricultural, business, health, social justice, faith, and academic communities to promote wind energy development.

"Wind energy works because it is one of the cleanest, most environmentally friendly energy sources in the world, helps reduce our country's dependence on foreign sources of energy, creates jobs and supports local economies," said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher.

"But despite all of these benefits, there is an ongoing effort by wind energy opponents to mislead the public and hinder or block further wind energy development across the country," he said. "This new coalition will make the positive case for continued wind energy development and engage the public with the facts."


This wind farm in southeastern Wyoming contains 69 wind turbines that provide power for the customers of Eugene Water and Electric in Eugene, Oregon. Each turbine has a hub height of 130 feet, three 66 foot blades, and weighs about 30,000 pounds. (Photo courtesy Eugene Water and Electric Board)
"This effort will reach every corner of the country and every level of the wind energy conversation," Swisher said, "from local town hall meetings to state media coverage to the floor of the U.S. Senate, the coalition's presence will be felt and its perspective will be voiced."

Wind power opponents include Republican U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and John Warner of Virginia. Their bill introduced in May would have denied a wind power production tax credit to any wind project located within 20 miles of a coastline, military base, national park or other scenic area. It would have permitted an adjacent state to veto any wind project proposed within 20 miles of the border.

When introducing the bill in a Senate floor speech May 13, Alexander said, "Wind produces puny amounts of high-cost unreliable power," and "Congress should not subsidize the destruction of the American landscape."

The Senate defeated the anti-wind bill, which would have been included in the broader energy bill now in the process of being finalized by a House-Senate conference committee.

Other wind power opponents take issue with the proposal to site America's first offshore wind farm in the middle of Nantucket Sound. The 420 megawatt wind farm would be located in the Sound about five miles south of Hyannis, Massachusetts.

On May 31, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound appealed the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board’s May 11 decision to approve transmission lines connecting the proposed Cape Wind wind facility to the regional electric grid. The appeal will be heard by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Sue Nickerson, executive director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said, "The Siting Board rubber-stamped Cape Wind’s application without fully examining the potentially devastating impact such a plant could have on the fragile ecosystem of Nantucket Sound."


Cape Wind opponents say this view of Nantucket Sound and Hyannis Harbor will be spoiled by the wind farm. (Photo credit unknown)
"Nantucket Sound is now the poster child for the lack of a coherent ocean policy," said Nickerson. "The state has designated its coastal waters in Nantucket Sound as a protected marine sanctuary that prohibits industrial projects like Cape Wind. Yet, just one foot over the three-mile state boundary, in federal water, there is no protection whatsoever. No developer should be allowed to exploit that failure in national policy."

Proponents of wind power point to the fact that wind turbines produce electricity without emitting air pollutants or climate warming greenhouse gases.

There is support in the United States for wind energy development. A May 2005 Yale University poll found that 87 percent of Americans support expanded wind farms and 86 percent want increased funding for renewable energy research.

Wind energy developers are opening new facilities across the country. On June 28, FPL Energy’s Weatherford Wind Energy Center was dedicated at Weatherford, Oklahoma.

When complete, the facility will generate enough electricity to power 44,000 homes. Construction of the initial 71 wind turbines was completed earlier this year and commercial operation began in late April. The company expects to complete a 40.5 megawatt expansion of the facility by the end of the year.

The 147 megawatt facility is owned and operated by FPL Energy. The Public Service Company of Oklahoma, a wholly owned operating subsidiary of American Electric Power, purchases all of the output from the facility under a long-term contract and provides the power to its customers.

"The Weatherford Wind Energy Center is much more than just the most recent wind farm to bring clean, renewable power to Oklahoma,” said FPL Energy’s Senior Vice President of Development Mike O’Sullivan at the dedication. “This project is a demonstration of how when people bring their skills, knowledge and commitment together, something good can happen. Many people worked on this project and the result is a facility of which we can all be proud.”

FPL Energy is also planning to build a wind power project in central North Dakota with a capacity of 49.5 megawatts. The Wilton Wind Project, located about 24 miles north of Bismarck, should be completed by year-end.

The company is developing the project with Basin Electric Power Cooperative and has agreed to sell the power to Minnesota Power, which services northeast Minnesota.

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said his state ranks first in the United States as having the most wind energy potential. “I’m proud that these two organizations are able to develop this resource for the benefit of electric consumers in nine states,” he said.


The King Mountain Wind Ranch near Odessa, Texas. Farmers and ranchers look at wind turbines and see income from leasing their lands to wind farm developers. (Photo courtesy Cielo Wind Power)
Other major wind power projects include the 200 megawatt Forward Energy wind project in Wisconsin, which won approval from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission on July 8. A subsidiary of Invenergy Wind LLC plans to build the project near Brownsville, about 10 miles south of Fond du Lac.

Wisconsin utility We Energies has also bought the development rights to two 80 megawatt wind projects, to be built next year in northeast Fond du Lac County.

And in California, PPM Energy plans to build the 150 megawatt Shiloh wind project in Solano County by year's end. The company announced on July 7 that it will sell most of the power from the project to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the Modesto Irrigation District.

“In this world of $60 a barrel foreign oil," said Terry Hudgens, PPM president and CEO, "we're encouraged to see both far-sighted investor owned utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric Company and public entities like Modesto Irrigation District sign significant, long-term agreements for clean, economical wind energy."

The pro-wind coalition takes in national, regional and local environmental, agricultural, economic development, religious organizations as well as wind and renewable energy advocacy groups.

Members include: Earth Policy Institute, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Izaak Walton League of America, Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Corn Growers Association, the American Corn Growers Foundation, Prowers County Development, Inc., and The Regeneration Project/Interfaith Power and Light.

Wind and renewable energy advocacy organization members include: AWEA, Renewable Energy Long Island, Western Resource Advocates, the Renewable Northwest Project, Wind Power New York, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT), The Wind Coalition, Green Energy Ohio, Wind on the Wires, the Interwest Energy Alliance, Clean Energy Partnership, Renew Wisconsin, West Wind Wires, Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ME3), and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.