(#270) –Recent blackouts of electricity in several of our towns reminds us how fragile our connection to this marvelous source of energy really is. Included in this experience should be the growing realization there is enormous expense as well as loss of property and health support systems when the power goes out.
The electrical grid is a fabulous achievement but it is creaky, inefficient and wasteful. Utility investment has not kept up with the demand for maintenance and replacement. Weather extremes continue to add to the challenge of reliable and affordable energy and by direct extension, increase the vulnerability of personal safety and community security.
One response has been individual, corporate and municipal investment in back-up generators using gas or diesel fuel. The local purchase and installation cost of these generators is several million dollars. Designed as a back-up system, they are seldom turned on and when operating, they spew pollution into the air and burn an increasingly expensive and scarce fuel. They do nothing for the great majority in their homes who cannot afford to purchase a generator.
Our inefficient, vulnerable, expensive, polluting power grid needs help. Our local economy and our personal lives do so as well. Help may be coming soon.
A grant from the US Department of Agriculture has been funding a feasibility study on community owned wind generation in Sullivan. Its managers, a locally-based, not for profit organization, has now identified two sites for the conduct of a very thorough investigation and design of wind turbine installations.
It needs to be emphasized that this is not a project that in itself includes erection of wind turbines. It is a study of where is the wind resource, community support, topographical and connection to the existing grid conditions, that make wind power economics work.
More than 80 sites have been investigated and dozens of land owners and public officials consulted. Over the next 4 months, the feasibility study will complete design and funding models for the two sites selected. The model for the first site, located in Parksville, will consist of 2 turbines, each rated at 2 mw,(2 million watts) and will be connected to the existing power grid. This model gives local developers and energy customers experience that is needed to develop much larger local wind power projects. The second site, located in Liberty, will consist of a single 2mw turbine that will be connected to an on-site facility which will consume all of the generated electricity.
Wind power is notorious for taking many years and several millions of dollars in just the start up phase. The goal of this community owned wind feasibility study is to greatly reduce the time and start up costs as well as open up the process for citizen and municipal government participation in design, governance and ownership. The final product is a template that outlines how to develop a profitable, affordable wind farm or other large and medium sized wind system in our communities.
The many land owners and others who have been approached but who sites were not chosen for this very focused final investigation, will be provided opportunity to learn more about how this wind power feasibility study can be directly applied to their property.