“Our corporate goal is to have 10% of power coming from renewables by 2010,” Ron Harper, CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative told the group at 7th Annual New & Emerging Technologies Conference of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives in Phoenix. Basin is a coop of 120 member systems, which serve 1.8 million consumers in 9 western states. I was there to give a talk and to learn more about what was being developed in power generation.
I learned of the challenges with renewables like wind, “40% of the time we are operational with wind, at best, in the west. To get power at the flip of a switch is difficult under those circumstances. Gas is really the only thing that you can offset it with.” Coal is a much steadier source but you can’t just flip on and off coal fired plants at will. The problem with gas is the extreme price fluctuations of the past year.
The cost of generating electricity with larger, more cost efficient wind turbines has dropped the operating costs dramatically. A report by the US Department of Energy shows this cost dropping from 40 cents/kWh in 1979 to 3 to 4.5 cents today (www.windpoweringamerica.gov).
Wind farms are going to be more prevalent in rural America. There are some benefits for the local land owners and a way to continue to diversify the economic base for rural communities.