U.S. National Lab to Stimulate Wind Power

One of the national laboratories of the U.S. Department of Energy will purchase wind energy to stimulate the market for green power in New Mexico.

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico – Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) has contracted to purchase electricity from an existing turbine near Clovis. The power will be purchased through DOE’s Albuquerque Operations Office and will provide power for 6 percent of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) total electric services requirement. “We intend to purchase 1 megawatt of wind-generated power in 2001, ramping up to 10 MW of renewable power within ten years,” says SNL executive vice-president Joan Woodard. “Sandia’s purchase of this wind-generated power should promote wind development in New Mexico, provide economic and environmental benefits, and help meet DOE’s goals as well as our nation’s.” “We hope to encourage other government and private sector purchasers to join us in expanding the role of renewable energy,” she adds. The purchase agreement is for a ten year term and the wind power sources will be competitively selected. SNL’s purchase will prompt the installation of an additional turbine and should stimulate further economic development in the state. Xcel Energy’s Southwestern Public Service Company, through its Windsource program, will deliver energy produced by both turbines. “It is fantastic that we collectively brought this renewable resource acquisition to fruition,” adds DOE’s Michael Loera. “Not only are we furthering the State of New Mexico’s economic development initiatives, but we have set forth a benchmark whereby we can continue to measure, apply and improve our contracting techniques to foster renewable resource acquisitions in New Mexico, Nevada and Texas.” New Mexico is assessed as the 12th windiest state in the U.S. and, according to a DOE study, is capable of producing more than ten times the current state electricity consumption. “The wind blows everywhere sometimes,” says SNL senior scientist Al Zelicoff. “With multiple wind turbines in enough places, electricity can be sent from one location to another, including Albuquerque and buyers out-of-state.” “The need for cleaner technologies is unquestioned,” he adds. “Hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide are produced yearly for every house using conventionally generated electricity. In 20 years, there will be twice as much material from human activity going into the atmosphere from the generation of electricity alone, unless we seek cleaner methods.” The economic growth in developing countries with large populations has implications for electricity demand, and officials predict that emissions will increase unless renewable energy can generate more of that power. The SNL purchase responds to a DOE mandate to use renewable resources to generate 7.5 percent of the electricity used at DOE sites by 2010. The premium cost for green power will be paid from SNL’s savings from energy conservation efforts, thereby requiring no additional tax dollars. Electricity generated from fossil fuels costs 3 cents/kWh, almost half the cost of wind power. DOE predicts the market for wind power to be fully competitive in many regions of the United States before 2010. Wind power currently installed in California generates more than 1 gigawatt (1 billion watts) from turbines, and Texas expects to generate 2 GW of renewable power, mostly wind, by 2008. Developments in turbines involve the use of larger and taller units, and better manufacturing processes are creating stronger blades. “In Europe, wind generators are installed in relatively small groups on plots of public land and considered things of beauty,” says Zelicoff. “People love them.” The SNL laboratory is operated by Lockheed Martin for the DOE. Its main facilities are located in Albuquerque and Livermore, California.

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