Hoping to cut costs and balance its co ntributions to global warming, Clark County’s government is thinking about dipping a toe into the growing wind power business.
Purchasing a pair of new wind turbines east of the Cascades might let the county generate energy equivalent to all its gasoline, electricity and natural gas consumption as soon as 2009.
After the windmills sell their power on the open market, they’d pay for themselves and might leave some cash to spare, county General Services Director Mark McCauley said Wednesday.
The windmills would cost about $18 million, McCauley said. At current electric rates, they’d earn about $1.2 million in cash annually and pay for themselves after 18 years.
Commissioners approved up to $127,000 Wednesday for audits of the turbine concept and of a related plan to line the county’s roofs with solar panels and burn wood scraps to power a steam turbine at the county’s inmate work center near the Port of Vancouver.
Even without the turbines, McCauley said the raft of energy-saving measures and smaller power generation tricks would cut the county’s gas and electric bills by almost a third, saving $292,000 annually.
“It’s no different than burning the waste oil at the shops out on 78th Street,” he said. “It’s just a good use of resources.”
The county is considering putting up the two 2.5-megawatt wind turbines either in Eastern Washington or at Camp Bonneville, the former military base north of Camas.
If the wind turbine plan doesn’t work out, the less spectacular measures would shrink the county government’s carbon-dioxide output by 16 percent.
It all fits in with a policy, approved by commissioners last month, for the county to “lead by example” in environmental matters.
“If everyone were to take a powerful stance like this, it would make a huge difference,” said Pete DuBois, a waste reduction specialist for the county.
Asked why, given the county’s revenue projections, other institutions aren’t already lining up to build wind turbines and reap the same profits, McCauley said that many people do seem to be thinking about it.
The Portland Tribune reported Wednesday that Portland’s government is c onsidering a similar plan.
By Michael Andersen
29 November 2007
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