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Appalachian buys wind power to meet Va. plan  

The Virginia Energy Plan outlines renewable energy use and energy conservation goals to be met by 2010.

The good news is Appalachian Power Co. is bringing alternative energy to its Virginia customers.

The bad news is those customers will foot the bill – and cleaner, non-greenhouse emitting energy sources generally cost more per kilowatt-hour than the coal-generated electricity that makes up nearly 90 percent of Appalachian’s power in Virginia.

“The price you pay for electricity may go up,” Appalachian Power spokesman John Shepelwich said. “The price per kilowatt-hour may go up. Your bill depends on you.”

The wind-generated power Appalachian is buying and the conservation Shepelwich implied are both part of Virginia’s energy plan, which grew out of legislation passed by the 2006 General Assembly.

The state plan calls for energy conservation, greater use of renewable energy and a 20 percent increase in “Virginia’s indigenous energy production.”

Appalachian Power, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, asked the State Corporation Commission on Tuesday to approve the company’s plan to meet the voluntary goals set by the state.

Appalachian has signed long-term contracts with wind farms in Indiana and Illinois that add 175 megawatts of wind-generated power to the electricity the company sells in Virginia.

“Actually, our customers here in Virginia are indeed using wind generation already,” Shepelwich said.

About 75 megawatts came online last week, he said. By the end of the year, that should be up to 175 megawatts. Combined with the hydroelectric power already in Appalachian’s system, that will allow the company to meet the state’s 2010 alternative energy goals by 2009.

The goal is to have 4 percent of the energy Appalachian sells generated by alternative energy by 2010. The goal for 2022 is 12 percent.

“We plan to meet that goal, and it is attainable for Virginia,” Shepelwich said.

But that goal isn’t quite as lofty as it sounds. The alternative energy isn’t measured against current energy use. It’s measured against 2007 figures.

The accounting is complicated. Wind energy counts double, but not all hydroelectric dams count as alternative energy. Pump storage units – facilities generally intended to provide power during peak load periods that generate power with water pumped into an impoundment – aren’t alternative energy. Facilities that drive turbines by damming a river’s natural flow are.

So Smith Mountain Lake doesn’t help Appalachian’s alternative numbers. Claytor Lake does.

It’s difficult to get a good handle on how thin alternative energy’s slice of the pie will be, but the 175 megawatts of wind energy Appalachian plans to have online by the end of this year is a little more than half the generating capacity of the 335 megawatt plant at Glen Lyn. Glen Lyn is one of the smallest coal-fired plants in the whole AEP system.

“The corporation as a whole has a goal of picking up an additional 1,000 megawatts of wind generation by 2011,” Shepelwich said.

That could be accomplished through more purchases or through construction of AEP’s own wind farms. AEP owns two wind farms in Texas that produce a little more than 300 megawatts. The company purchases about 450 megawatts from wind farms in Texas and Oklahoma.

Other alternatives are under consideration, but wind is the ticket for the moment, Shepelwich said.

“We do think that wind is the next element in our comprehensive plan that we can do the most with in the shortest time,” he said.

By Tim Thornton

The Roanoke Times

23 January 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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