Colorado uses wind power

Apr 022002
Authors: Nicole Kucewicz

Wind power is a modern source of electricity that is growing in demand. To generate power by wind, turbines are built in fields and transmission systems are built to transport the energy to needed areas.

Even though using wind as a power source is a more environmentally conscious alternative, it isn’t always reliable. This is simply because the wind doesn’t blow constantly, so customers who choose to use wind as a source of energy also use fossil fuels as a back-up.

“Customers can buy hours from the wind source each month for 2.5 cents more (than fossil fuel generated power), and use fossil fuels for the remainder of the energy that they use,” said Steve Roalstad of Xcel Energy.

Wind power is slightly more expensive, due to general maintenance and upkeep of the turbines and the property.

About 160 wind power plants are scattered across the country. Most are located in the West and Midwest, but some Eastern states such as Maine, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts also have wind plants.

There are currently only two wind farms in Colorado. One is located on I-25 near Cheyenne with 44 turbines, and the other one with 35 turbines is in Peetz, near the Nebraska border.

Xcel Energy rents some of the land for its Colorado wind plant from farmers who are still able to farm the land and let their cattle graze. This is a benefit to the farmers, as well as the energy company, because the farmers are making a profit and are still able to use their land while the company is able to use space that is already occupied, rather than having to build on additional land.

“Some benefits to using wind as an energy source is that it is clean, increasingly less expensive to build and it is becoming more efficient,” Roalstad said.

Currently, there are 21,000 wind energy customers in Colorado, and the number is still growing. Fort Collins residents have the option of using wind power.

“We have enough supply to meet the demand, which is a benefit to the industry,” Roalstad said.

A customer can purchase up to 62 mega watts of energy from wind power per month, which is enough to provide electricity for 1,000 customers, including businesses. The average purchase is 625 kilowatts each month. One megawatt equals one million watts.

“It used to be that we couldn’t even get a half of a megawatt so we have come a long way,” Roalstad said.

According to the Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL), almost every region in the country has some areas of good wind energy resources. Some Great Plains states, from Texas to North Dakota, have a lot of wind-energy potential, which far exceeds its current electricity consumption.

Wind farms will continue to be built as long as there is a demand for them. According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Web site, (, with turbine technology, wind power can supply 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

In order to generate this 20 percent, or 560,000 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), only 0.6 percent of the land in the lower 48 states would have to be developed with wind power plants. That equals an area about 16,000 square miles, or about the area of four counties in Montana, distributed over the entire U.S.

“Each watt that comes out of wind power is one less needed to be used by fossil fuels,” Roalstad said.

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