Clean and renewable

June 14, 2010 12:31 pm
With the Antelope Ridge Wind Farm under consideration, perhaps now is a time to consider where our electrical power comes from and how future growth in consumption will be met.

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, over the last 12-month period (through August 2009) approximately 69.5 percent of electricity in the U.S. was generated with fossil fuels with coal accounting for 46 percent), natural gas 22.5 percent and petroleum 1.1 percent. The balance comes from nuclear (20.4 percent), hydro (6.4 percent) and other renewables (3.5 percent).

Coal power produces 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions, is mined out of the ground and can produce long-term environmental and health problems. Natural gas produces 50 percent less CO2 per kilowatt-hour compared with coal, but it will become much more expensive as oil prices return to pre-recession levels.

Nuclear power uses substantial amounts of water, is fueled by mined uranium and creates waste that must be stored for thousands of years.

Hydro power has limited growth potential as most viable sites have already been developed. Renewable power capacity, outside hydro, will continue to grow as a clean and stable priced energy source.

Wind power is the fastest growing new source of electricity worldwide. Within the U.S., Minnesota and Iowa each generate 7 percent of their power from wind. Denmark generates 20 percent of its power from wind, and China is expected to pass the U.S. this year as the nation with the largest installed capacity.

Worldwide jobs in wind energy have surpassed 550,000 and are projected to grow to more than 1 million by 2012. As a resource, wind is both clean and renewable, two characteristics that are becoming increasingly important in all new electric production facilities.

Our elected officials are spending innumerable hours listening and researching in order to create policy solutions designed to benefit society as a whole. The challenge for legislators is how to implement these new energy policies. At their disposal are proven tools like incentives, subsidies and grants that were used to develop our current energy technologies.

We see examples of this locally in agricultural direct crop payments, forestry timber kickers, Union County economic development grants, federal highway improvement funds, energy conservation tax credits and renewable energy incentives.

Carbon fuels are not paying their way when we consider military expenditures protecting resources, climate change, environmental damage and health problems. Until this economic flaw is corrected, tools like incentives will need to stay in place to ensure that future forms of electricity like wind, bio-mass, solar, solar thermal and geothermal can develop.

Renewable power can play a big part in reducing emissions of the power generated in the U.S. and around the world. 

Looking locally at the proposed Antelope Ridge Wind Farm, there have been numerous opinions and fears voiced.  It is important, however, to look at the facts.

We know, according to a recent study, that a significant amount of money will flow into the county during the construction phase, long-term lease agreements with landowners and over time with the negotiated SIP (Strategic Investment Program) Agreement. In order to maintain the wind farm, multiple long-term jobs will be added to the area.

When it comes to property values near wind farms, the Lawrence Berkley Laboratory just completed the most comprehensive study ever done in the U.S. The study of 7,500 home sales near wind farms found no impact on property values within 800 feet of turbines.

The Antelope Ridge Project would not be closer than one mile from Union with the bulk of the project two to 10 miles away on private ownerships.

The view of private property on Craig Mountain from most of the city of Union is very limited due to neighbors’ houses, trees, buildings and power poles. The best views from Union have always been to the north and northwest. When I look up at the Elkhorn Wind Farm from North Powder, I see numerous slow-turning, graceful blades capturing a clean and renewable resource. It seems a great use for old sagebrush hills that support approximately one cow per 25 acres. 

Just as Mercedes Benz and Honda have built factories, infrastructure and created jobs in this country, Horizon

Wind Energy will be investing $4,000,000,000-plus dollars in U.S. wind projects over the next three years.

Vestas, a manufacturer of wind turbines, has already built factories in Colorado for blades, towers and nacelles that employ approximately 2,500 people. In order to remain competitive in the world economy, we need to keep our doors open and encourage investment from the world’s best companies regardless of their origin.

I believe it is time for some of us to recognize the world’s energy future is complex, exciting, challenging and that we need to be a leader in energy innovation to remain competitive in a global economy.  Good long-term energy policies, incentives and innovation will drive a sustainable energy future to counter CO2 pollution from a diminishing fossil fuel source. 

Douglas M. Lewis is a North Powder resident.