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Wind energy use requires population base

By Staff | Oct 28, 2008

A map of North Dakota shows that the state is the best of the lower 48 in potential wind energy. Look at another map of where wind farms are located though, and you’ll find only two, despite the fact that North Dakota could provide 36 percent of the nation’s electricity needs if that energy could be harnessed.

To be effective, wind farms must be located near energy grids for population centers. Bill Haman of the Iowa Energy Center talked about the applications and feasibility – of wind energy Thursday at an Ag for Reporters seminar in Newton.

Haman offered some interesting facts about wind energy and how it is generated.

n Wind is actually a byproduct of solar energy. Two percent of solar energy reaching the earth is converted to wind.

n Wind results from uneven heating and cooling of the earth.

n More power is generated from wind energy on a cold day than on a warm day.

n The higher you go, the faster the wind speed. If the average minimum wind speed at ground level is seven miles an hour, at 165 feet the average minimum will be 15 miles an hour.

n Just as you probably learned when you flew kites as a kid, March is best month for wind. Summer months have the least.

Thanks to incentives at the federal and state level, the wind industry really began to take off in the 1990s, Haman said. The Iowa Energy Efficiency Act was created in 1990. The act provided funding through a surcharge in intrastate electricity and gas sales, generating an annual budget of $3.5 million.

Haman said the necessary conditions favorable for wind energy development include good wind, terrain, proximity to utility grids and flexible permitting and good neighbor policies. If all those factors are favorable in a given area, that area is then considered an excellent location for wind energy development.

Haman took issue with the amount that landowners are paid for leases to place wind turbines on their property – anywhere from just 1-3 percent of what a turbine generates, according to Haman.

Not surprisingly, investment in wind energy has been at its highest when the federal renewable energy tax credit is in place, said Haman.

Haman offered a lot of praise for one local school in our area. He said the Spirit Lake School District “are the pioneers in the country” in using wind turbines to generate power for the district.

The certainty of wind energy development also bodes well for Iowa Lakes Community Community College.

“Iowa Lakes Community College can’t put out enough graduates to meet the needs of these projects,” said Haman.