Plan for more wind-produced power to be announced

Energy secretary wants 5% of electricity to come from turbines by 2020


WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says he will announce a plan tomorrow to produce 5 percent of the nation's electricity from wind by 2020, up from 0.1 percent now.

Under the plan, the federal government, the nation's largest electricity customer, would rely on wind for 5 percent of its use by 2010.

"We think that wind technology has the most potential of any renewable energy technology right now," Richardson said in a telephone interview. The other leading renewable contenders are electricity from the sun or from biomass, including crop wastes.

Outside experts agree that wind is the closest to being competitive in price. Charles McGowin, the team leader for renewable energy at the Electric Power Research Institute, of Palo Alto, Calif., a utility consortium, said, "There's a lot of untapped wind potential in the United States, particularly in the upper great Plains, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota and Iowa."

One problem, though, is that transmission lines will have to be built if wind machines become widespread enough.

Department officials say wind turbines, the industry's preferred term for windmills, are good cash producers for farmers, who can graze cattle or grow crops in their shadow.

Richardson, who will make the plan public in a speech to the American Wind Energy Association's annual meeting, in Burlington, Vt., said the department would seek to "merge technology with good commercialization."

The department will take steps like encouraging "wind-friendly codes and covenants," investing money in research and development, and encouraging vocational schools to help train "wind smiths."

Around the country, about 2,500 megawatts of capacity are expected to be in service by the end of this month, up from about 1,600 megawatts a year ago. The difference, 900 megawatts, is about the capacity of one medium-size nuclear plant.

Enron Corp. began construction last month of a 16.5-megawatt plant in California to meet demand for "green power" there. The company expects that, as the power market there is deregulated, customers will choose clean power.

The price of a kilowatt-hour from wind has declined to about 5 cents, said Dan Reicher, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The department believes that the cost of production must fall to between 2 cents and 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to succeed in the first decades of the 21st century.

Pub Date: 6/20/99

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