The spinning blades of wind turbines can help power a town and save energy, but the high cost of buying and installing them has stopped Perkasie from churning forward.
The Upper Bucks borough considered buying wind turbines, but after meeting with officials from electrical utility giant Exelon Corp., PECO Energy’s parent company, Perkasie officials decided that wind-generated energy might be too expensive – at least for now.
Perkasie, one of several area municipalities that buy wholesale electricity and resell it to residents, had hoped the turbines would generate electricity for its grid.
“Wind is free, but with the cost of multimillion [dollar] terminals, it isn’t worth the savings at this time … until they make the cost of turbines cheaper,” said borough Manager Dan Olpere.
Perkasie had discussed buying three 240-foot tall turbines that could generate about 20 percent of the borough’s electric power and potentially save the borough and ratepayers money in the long run. But the rising cost of steel and fuel has sent the cost of the turbines skyrocketing.
“There has been capital increases across the board and it has hit wind energy,” said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.
Turbines usually are priced per output. In the last few years, the cost of a unit has gone from $1 million per megawatt to $1.5 million per megawatt, said Real de Azua. If the average large turbine produces 1.5 to 2 megawatts, which can power about 500 homes, it could cost between $2.25 million to $3 million to buy each unit.
“They are expensive up front. It’s high-tech equipment,” said Real de Azua.
Over time, wind energy can save money because there’s no fuel cost once the units are set up, she said.
When they first discussed the concept last spring, Perkasie officials estimated wind-generated power could cost the borough about 7 cents a kilowatt hour initially and eventually drop to about 2 cents per kwh. Perkasie buys electricity at a rate of about 5 cents per kwh, or about $3.3 million a year for its approximately 3,800 customers.
Wind power, solar power and other eco-friendly energy alternatives have grown in popularity in the last few years, especially as the country tries to move further away from the traditional energy sources of oil, natural gas and coal.
By Hilary Bentman
Bucks County Courier Times
215-538-6380 or hbentman@phillyBurbs.com.
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