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Alternative energy answer may be blowin' in the wind

(Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2002 -- CropChoice news) --

David Lore, The Columbus Dispatch, 11/24/2002: Before Ohio homeowners, farmers and utilities invest in alternative power sources, they'll need to know which way -- and how fast -- the wind blows, energy experts said this week.

"Don't expect (utilities) to charge out and try all these new things,'' Larry Flowers of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., told about 300 people at the Ohio Wind Power Conference in Dublin.

Though there is considerable interest in alternative power sources, people and companies need hard evidence there's sufficient wind power available before they invest in wind turbines, Flowers said. The laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility, expects to have a high-resolution wind map of Ohio available by next fall, Flowers said.

TrueWind Solutions, an Albany N.Y. contractor, creates wind maps by constructing a computer model similar to the weather models that government agencies use. The result is a high-resolution map that can chart wind conditions for properties as small as 1,300 feet on a side, Flowers said.

Computer models are calibrated by adjusting results to conform with wind measurements from airports, cities and military installations. The result is a wind-speed map accurate to 1 or 2 mph for any specific location, Flowers said.

Twenty-one states already operate utility-scale wind turbines, said Cleveland engineer Fletcher Miller of Green Energy Ohio, a nonprofit group promoting alternative energy systems.

Miller heads the group's wind committee, which since 1994 has worked to update a 1987 Battelle study that found sufficient wind for electrical generation in counties along Lake Erie.

Green Energy Ohio is taking new wind-speed measurements from 132-foot to 161-foot test towers in Cuyahoga, Erie, Lake and Wood counties. A fifth monitoring tower in the program is just across the Pennsylvania line. In addition, a Texas utility -- Green Mountain Energy -- is doing similar tests in northern Morrow County.

These results also will be used to adjust the computer model TrueWind Solutions is developing.

Ohio monitoring so far, Miller said, shows average wind speeds of 13 to 15 mph. This is enough for homes, farms and small commercial operations. But "13 mph isn't going to do it for a (utility) wind farm,'' Flowers said. "You need 15 to 16 mph to do that.''

Flowers said Ohio should consider constructing utility-scale wind turbines off-shore in Lake Erie to take advantage of strong lake winds. One offshore test site Green Energy Ohio is considering is the Cleveland Water Crib, the main intake for the Cleveland water system.

Green Energy Ohio hosted the meeting with support from the Department of Energy and the Ohio Department of Development.

For more information, see http://www.greenenergy ohio.org