Blowing in the Wind

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Feb 032004
 
Authors: Ben Bleckley

The option of buying wind power could soon be available to

students living in the residence halls.

Currently, anyone in Fort Collins can buy wind power for an

extra 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour or in blocks of 200 or 400

kilowatt-hours for a set monthly rate. Wind power costs more to pay

for the construction of turbines, said John Bleem, division manager

of customer service for the Platte River Power Authority.

Right now, that option isn’t available to students living on

campus due to the way the university gets electricity from the

city. The university has one meter for all the electricity it uses,

as opposed to private homes, which have their own independent

meters.

“The city would offer (wind power) to the one meter that they

see,” said Carol Dollard, a utility engineer with CSU facilities

management. “But an individual student living in a residence hall

is not a direct customer of the city.”

Britta Schroeder, an Associated Students of CSU senator, wants

to extend the option of wind power to students living in the

residence halls.

Her bill, if passed, would request that Housing and Dining

Services help provide that option. Schroeder is proposing similar

legislation to the Residence Hall Association this coming

Monday.

Schroeder, who represents the College of Natural Resources,

estimates a student living in the residence halls would pay an

extra $42 per year for the 1,600 kilowatt-hours of wind power the

average student uses. That would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by

2,400 pounds per year.

Due to the nature of the city’s power grid, wind power would not

flow directly to a student’s room and outlets.

“You wouldn’t be able to point and say ‘this light bulb is being

powered by the wind,'” Schroeder said.

The amount of electricity a customer used would be taken from

wind power and replace the equivalent of burned coal.

Some concern over wind power is that it is unreliable and that

the wind cannot power turbines on demand, Bleem said.

“(One reason) wind power is more expensive is because it only

runs one-third of the time,” Bleem said. “Hydro facilities, coal

facilities and gas facilities can run whenever they’re called

on.”

Customers will still have electricity even when the wind isn’t

blowing, however, because the Platte River Power Authority backs up

the wind power using other sources of energy, according to

www.fcgov.com. Over the course of a year, the wind energy produced

balances with the amount people use.

Schroeder conducted a survey in the spring of 2003 where 23 of

26 students in a stratified random sampling were in favor of wind

power at no extra cost to them. Only 12 of those 26 were willing to

pay an extra $15 dollars for wind power in their room. Only three

students were in favor of paying for wind power in general at an

extra cost to them.

Some senators on ASCSU point to this statistic and say that wind

power is not worth the effort if only three of 26 students are

interested.

“If we only have 1,000 students living in the residence halls to

pay for wind power, that’d be 1,000 more than we have now,”

Schroeder said. “Even if we got 10, I think that would still be

more than what we have now. It’s just an option, it’s not about

bringing an income and making something worth it. It’s giving the

students a choice.”

Some students may not want to pay an extra $42 each semester

when tuition is on the rise.

“I do support wind power, just because wind power is cleaner and

everything like that,” said Brian Hill, a sophomore electrical

engineering major. “But why can’t the residence hall pay it anyway,

I mean, it’s just $42. If Schroeder’s bill does pass, a committee

would most likely be formed to determine how to provide the option

of wind power to residence hall students, Dollard said.

One possibility is to have students sign up for wind power in

the same way they can rent a micro-fridge or loft in the residence

halls. Students check a box and send their $42 dollars. In turn the

university would buy 1,600 kilowatt-hours of wind power.

If the ASCSU bill does pass, Schroeder said the next step will

be setting up meetings with the administration, surveying students

and marketing the wind power to residence hall students.

“It’s really a matter of giving the students a choice,”

Schroeder said.

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