The Columbia Water and Light Department has drawn up a contract with a Florida-based renewable energy provider to purchase wind energy from Iowa, and the deal will be presented to the Columbia City Council for a first reading tonight at its regular meeting.
If the contract is approved, the city would enter into a 20-year deal with NextEra Energy Resources LLC to split with the University of Missouri 21 megawatts of wind power from the Crystal Lake III Wind Energy Center in Hancock County, Iowa. The Water and Light Advisory Board unanimously agreed at its November meeting to forward the contract to the council. The council could give final approval to the deal at its Feb. 6 meeting.
Connie Kacprowicz, a Water and Light spokeswoman, said a benefit of using wind energy is that it can be generated in periods of inclement weather.
“This combined with the solar gives us a nice mix of resources,” Kacprowicz said. Omaha, Neb.-based Free Power Co. is in the process of installing enough solar panels in the city to annually generate 12,000 megawatt hours of electricity by October.
The city currently draws wind energy from Bluegrass Ridge Wind Farm in northwest Missouri, and last year that energy cost $65.95 per megawatt hour, Kacprowicz said in an email. The new wind energy source would provide power at $42.50 per megawatt hour. The city pays about $55 per megawatt hour for traditional fossil fuel energy off the grid.
The city is mandated to draw 5 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the end of the year and 10 percent by 2018. In 2011, 5.4 percent of the city’s energy portfolio was made up of renewable sources, and a city news release said the new wind energy deal could boost the city’s renewable energy portfolio by 2.6 percent.
Karlan Seville, a spokeswoman for MU Campus Facilities, said in an email that 13 percent of the university’s electricity would come from renewable sources when the deal with NextEra is complete. The university will become part of the wind energy deal through a contract with the city. If the city rejects the contract, the university would make alternative arrangements.
Steve Stengel, a spokesman for NextEra, said the company has power generation assets in 22 states and Canada and has a diverse energy portfolio that includes wind, solar, hydroelectric, nuclear and fossil fuel sources. But, he said, the company is one of the largest generators of wind and solar energy in North America. “In our view, renewable energy plays an important role in helping the country meet its energy needs,” Stengel said.
Stengel said the company’s clientele includes municipalities such as Springfield, Ill., and Pella, Iowa. In September 2011, NextEra was among a group of investors that received at $1.5 billion loan guarantee from the federal government to buy a planned 550-megawatt solar farm in Southern California.
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