What's New In Wind Energy?

Published on: 15:28PM Jul 29, 2010
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July 29, 2010 – If you’ve traveled across Illinois, Iowa, and/or a number of other states in recent years, you’ve probably seen wind turbines popping up across the landscape. For several years these “wind farms” have been one of the big pushes towards clean and green energy – politicians have often talked about them, and I know there have been a great many landowners who have dealt with the wind development companies at some level. It is not surprising to me that the development of these wind farms has been legislatively supported – at some level, most “new markets” are supported legislatively (e.g., ethanol). 
But recently, it has seemed that the hubbub and excitement about the wind energy industry had slowed. And maybe the concerns over the broader economy have just shuffled smaller topics to the back-burner? And then, viola! The Des Moines Register recently published an interesting article concerning the wind energy industry. The article points out that without “a national renewable electricity mandate”, there’s no guarantee that there will be a market for electricity that is generated by wind power, and that existing utility companies would likely continue to rely on coal and natural gas for additional electricity generation. Why? Well, even though the article does not come out and say so, I would estimate that wind energy is more expensive than that of the power that’s generated by coal and natural gas - the more traditional sources. If wind energy were the cheaper alternative, wouldn’t the utility companies have a natural interest in putting it to work?
There are, of course, many state level mandates that will continue to support the wind energy industry. But in the end, if wind energy is more expensive than other power sources, is it really a viable option? With local, state, and federal budgets increasingly being squeezed, should wind energy be our priority if it is more costly? I’m interested in your opinions, so please send a comment in on the topic if you have experience in this field.