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Glenwood Springs to double wind energy usage

Glenwood Springs city officials have decided to catch more wind power while they can.The city, already a national leader in the use of wind energy, will be doubling that usage. The city’s electric system, with some 5,500 customers, currently gets 4 percent of its power from wind turbines, but will be increasing that amount to 8 percent.City Council had tentatively decided last fall to increase the city’s wind energy portfolio. However, city manager Jeff Hecksel had recommended waiting until the city completed a study of its electric rates, to get a better sense of how much the wind energy might cost customers.But that study still is ongoing. And meanwhile, the demand for wind energy is growing so fast that Hecksel feared the city might not be able to acquire more wind power if it didn’t act fast.Hecksel said a wholesale electricity supplier to the city was holding some wind power for the city, but he didn’t want to risk waiting much longer to take advantage of it.City officials have talked about boosting the wind power percentage beyond 8 percent of the total, but Hecksel said there probably isn’t any more available to purchase right now.”I think there’s other resources that are coming on line, but I don’t know where they are,” he said.He said he thinks the city will have more opportunities to increase its wind power percentage later.Even at 8 percent, Glenwood Springs is becoming even more of a leader in wind power consumption in the United States.”You’re definitely going to be in elite territory,” said Gary Goodson, associate director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, an Aspen-based nonprofit organization that promotes renewable energy.Portland, Ore., and San Francisco use 12 percent renewable energy, but that includes not only wind but other sources such as small-scale hydroelectric, Goodson said.Randy Udall, CORE’s director, told Glenwood officials last fall that even at 4 percent, Glenwood ranked third among 2,000 municipal electric systems nationwide in the percentage of use of wind energy alone.Goodson said Glenwood’s decision to increase its wind power usage represents a “sizable commitment to the environment.”Hecksel is estimating that the move will increase the city’s wholesale power cost by about 1 percent, or $45,000. But city officials believe traditional energy sources eventually may rise enough in cost that wind energy will be a cheaper alternative.”It will give us a hedge against some of the wildly fluctuating fossil fuel costs that we’ve been experiencing in the last year or two,” said Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen.He supports the city continuing to increase its wind energy usage in the future.City officials like the clean and renewable nature of wind energy. And after coming out in opposition to drilling for natural gas on top of the Roan Plateau near Rifle, they can say they are encouraging the development of an alternative energy source.Christensen also likes the fact that wind energy could become a big growth industry for northern Plains tribes who had been relegated to windy reservations.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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