The wind-energy industry is fast expanding in Central Illinois, but one absentee on the bandwagon is the main company that supplies the area with power.
With electric rates in legislative limbo, Ameren Corp. has yet to purchase wind energy for its Illinois subsidiaries, AmerenIP, AmerenCILCO and AmerenCIPS.
Still, the St. Louis-based utility applied with energy regulators to use wind power in Missouri and is working to advance the alternative energy source in Illinois too, said Bill Barbieri, of Ameren’s renewable energy division, while attending a wind energy conference Thursday at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington.
Wanting to educate wind-farm operators and developers on the needs of utilities, Ameren was one of several sponsors of the event, which continues Friday. The renewable energy does add cost and can be unreliable, he said, explaining that some smaller turbines don’t provide enough electricity to power a hair dryer.
“There’s a big push overall in the country to see how we adapt renewable energy. There’s a reality that needs to be expressed, so people know what challenges we face,” Barbieri said. “If we were doing everything with wind, there would be times you flip the switch and the lights wouldn’t come on … We have to determine what’s realis-tic.”
Barbieri was one of more than 300 people to attend the sold-out conference, called “Advancing Wind Power in Illinois.”
Conference visitors came from Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Hampshire and elsewhere to check out exhibits and panel discussions from wind farm developers, financers, educators and others in the industry.
Illinois State University developed the conference as the wind-energy industry continues to expand in Central Illinois.
The Twin Groves Wind Farm under construction in eastern McLean County will be one of the largest in the nation.
Plans are also in the works for wind farms in western McLean County, Woodford County and Livingston County, including two massive wind farms that would overlap near the Cayuga Ridge.
The area’s ample wind has attracted developers from Texas to Oregon.
“Central Illinois is a hotbed for wind proposals,” said J. Randy Winter, an ISU ag professor who helped coordinate the event.
“From a community point of view, there are some economic advantages,” said Winter, noting the jobs created and taxes generated by wind-farm development, as well as the lifetime payments farmers receive for allowing turbines on their property.
The conference is a requirement of a $1 million grant ISU received from the U.S. Department of Energy to enhance renewable energy. ISU plans to have four conferences a year, Winter said.
By Scott Miller
28 June 2007
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