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Wind power in Ohio gets new support

Ohio has greater-than-expected potential for wind power, according to a new federal study.

The latest modeling shows that a number of areas in Ohio have sufficient wind at heights of 100 meters to support commercial turbines that would produce clean electricity, said Dennis Elliot of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

While much of Northwest Ohio has potential, the best sites for wind turbines are north of Springfield, west of Mansfield, south of Sandusky and along the Lake Erie shoreline, Elliot said Thursday in a teleconference arranged by Environment Ohio, a statewide group.

“Ohio’s wind energy potential actually exceeds the electricity demand of the entire state of Ohio,” he said.

Previous studies at lower heights had indicated that Ohio had winds that were only marginal at best for wind power, but that’s not the case, said the Colorado-based Elliot.

Wind towers would have to be built to confirm the wind speeds before wind power can be commercially developed, he said.

The new analysis has been used in 30 states, Elliot said, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has revisited some states, such as Ohio, that earlier had been dismissed for having insufficient winds.

He said federal officials are fairly confident in the new assessment, which shows Ohio wind speeds in excess of 7 meters per second – the speed needed for commercial development.

Technology also has improved, he said, and wind companies are building towers that are 100 meters and even taller to catch the best winds.

Elliot estimated that Ohio could very easily support wind farms that could generate 20 percent of the state’s electricity.

The new analysis looked only at land sites, although the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is doing a water wind analysis of the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, that should be completed in about six months.

The news of Ohio’s wind potential was greeted with enthusiasm, along with a call for legislative action.

Richard Stuebi, of the Cleveland Foundation, said developing wind power could provide a major economic boost to Ohio.

However, Amy Gomberg of Environment Ohio said laws need to be passed to require utilities like FirstEnergy Corp. and American Electric Power to generate 10 percent to 20 percent of their electricity from wind power.

To date, 22 states have adopted such rules to promote wind power as a nonpolluting alternative energy source, she said, and Ohio utilities are working to provide wind power in other states.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, with a map showing the best sites for wind turbines, is available at www.environmentohio.org.

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer


20 April 2007