Advocates of wind energy sought to get a step ahead of Ohio’s new political climate Monday, urging the newly elected governor and Legislature to include windmills in the state’s future energy plans.
“While wind energy may not solve all of our energy needs – in fact, it likely won’t – it is a key part of an overall strategy to diversify our energy sources, increase our energy efficiency, and I think this is a good start,” said Battelle senior vice president Dennis McGinn, manager of the research institute’s energy, transportation and environment division.
McGinn joined representatives of Environment Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Office of Consumer’s Counsel at the unveiling of a new Environment Ohio study that found Ohio has substantial untapped wind resources.
“Through much of northwest and central Ohio, as well as on and off the Lake Erie shore, enough wind potential exists to generate much of our energy needs and make us energy independent,” said Erin Bowser, state director of Environment Ohio.
The study, Ohio’s Wind Energy Future, found there is enough wind potential in two glacial ridges north of Columbus to power 165,000 homes, enough blowing across the flat lands of northwest Ohio to power 60,000 homes, and enough surging across Lake Erie to power 645,000 homes.
Estimates vary widely on how much energy Ohio could replace with wind – from 8 percent to 151 percent, depending on the source.
But Jack Shaner, legislative director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said regardless of the final number, the state can do better.
He said only about one percent of Ohio’s energy comes from renewable sources today, compared to 98 percent from dirtier, less environmentally friendly coal- and nuclear-based power.
“Ohio is clinging to this policy of the past while 21 other states are rushing ahead with renewable energy standards,” he said.
The groups called on Ohio to require 20 percent of its electricity to come from clean courses – such as wind, solar or switchgrass – by 2020; to set up a permanent funding source for development of wind energy; and to modify Ohio’s utility regulations to make it easier for wind generators to enter the Ohio market.
Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, said mandating a given percentage for one form of energy is the wrong way to go.
“I think if you’re talking to the working families of Ohio, anything that makes them pay more for their energy is not in their best interest,” he said.
“There is no reason to go and bash one type of energy. We all want a clean environment, and we all want to keep our economy rolling.”
Ellen Raines, a spokeswoman for FirstEnergy, said the utility giant already has agreements in place to purchase wind-generated power from several different sources in surrounding states.
She said the company would be open to purchasing from an Ohio-based provider as long as the price was competitive.
“As far as coal and nuclear go, those will continue to be important sources of base load generation,” she said.
“Obviously, the problem with wind is you can’t always get it when you need it. But we’ve always believed in having a diverse portfolio.”
By Julie Carr Smyth