Aug 182004
Authors: Ryan Riggen

Windy days contribute more than just bad hair days in Fort Collins. A recent decrease in price has made wind power more of a reality to residents and businesses alike. As of June 1, Fort Collins residents now only have to pay an additional 1 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a 60 percent decrease from the additional 2 1/2 cents charged before June 1.

The average household uses around 700 kWh per month, which equates to about an additional $7 per month. Commercial customers can also purchase wind power and many local businesses have done so. Students living in residence halls will also have the option of purchasing wind power during their time at CSU.

“As of Tuesday, 123 subscribers have signed up for wind power in the residence halls,” said Carol Dollard, Utilities Engineer for facilities management. “We are very pleased with this number.”

Students in residence halls can purchase wind power for a one-time payment of $17, which provides the students electricity for the entire school year. Apartment Life has also launched a program for students living in apartments on campus. Students in campus apartments can pay $26 for one semester or $52 for both semesters.

“Right now there are about 900 residents and 65 businesses using wind power,” said John Phelan, energy services engineer at Fort Collins Utilities. “That number is changing rapidly though because of the recent decrease in price and increase in public awareness.”

One of the first businesses to purchase wind power from the city was New Belgium Brewery, which began offsetting 100 percent of the electricity used by the brewery in 1999. According to Hillary Mizia, New Belgium Sustainability Goddess, the brewery is one of the largest consumers of wind power in the city.

Fort Collins purchases wind power from Platte River Power Authority (PRPA), a wholesale electricity provider, which also provides wind energy to Loveland, Longmont and Estes Park. Fort Collins plans on purchasing more than 30,000 megawatt-hours of wind energy from PRPA in 2004 according to the city’s website.

The wind power does not go directly to the resident or business that signed up for it, but is plugged into the power grid where that resident or business is located offsetting the power that they use.

“Wind power usage has increased a little bit recently,” said Paul Warila, customer services engineer at PRPA. “Three or four years ago the biggest increases in usage occurred because of the nine turbines built at the time.”

Wind energy used to power residents and businesses in Fort Collins is generated at Platte River’s Medicine Bow Wind Project and the Pleasant Valley Wind Energy Facility, both located in Wyoming. About one-third of Fort Collin’s wind energy comes from the Medicine Bow site with the rest coming from the Pleasant Valley site.

Fort Collins is attempting to meet the goals set by the city’s Electric Energy Supply Program, which aims to increase the city’s renewable energy use to 2 percent in 2004 and 15 percent by 2017. The program began in 2003 and has been one of the main drivers in increasing the amount of renewable energy used. Phelan estimates that 2.3 percent of the city’s electricity currently comes from renewable energy, which he says is only the first step.

As the level of renewable energy used increases the price decreases because the city is buying more wind power in larger blocks. The additional 1 cent per kWh price will be in effect until the end of 2005. At the end of 2005 the price could vary over time depending on usage.

According to the City of Fort Collins website, Fort Collins currently gets a majority of it’s energy from a combination of coal, hydro, wind, and natural gas. Coal is by far the biggest source of electricity in Fort Collins providing about 72 percent with hydro a distant second at 25 percent.

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