Wind power proving to be more | AspenTimes.com

Wind power proving to be more

When Holy Cross Energy makes another push to promote wind power early next year, it hopes to build on the success that’s already made its program one of the best in the country.

About 2,350 of Holy Cross’ 47,000 customers purchase some amount of wind power each month. That 5 percent participation rate in the voluntary program ties it for the third highest in the country, according to Holy Cross spokesman David Church.

Between 8 and 10 percent of the electricity that Holy Cross provides comes from renewable resources, depending on seasonal usage. Most of that is wind power, but Holy Cross also purchases small amounts of power from hydro-electric projects and photovoltaic sources.

Church said 900 customers responded “right off the bat” when Holy Cross first offered wind power in 1998. Since then, the program has grown slowly but steadily.

“We’ve had real strong support since its inception,” Church said. “I’m surprised we reached this level this quickly.”

@ATD Sub heds:Added cost to be ‘green’

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@ATD body copy: The participation is particularly impressive since the program has only existed for four years and because participation isn’t free. Customers must pay $2.50 for each block of wind power they purchase.

Energy efficiency experts contend that purchasing wind power is one of the best ways to contribute to a healthy planet.

Randy Udall, director of the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency, said using two blocks of wind power prevents about 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year. CO2 is a contributor of greenhouse gases which many scientists blame for global warming and other climate changes.

Udall urges households to purchase as much of their electricity as possible from the wind power program. At $2.50 per block, the monthly expense is about the same as what families spend on cable television or cellular telephone service.

One block only makes a small dent in the typical household’s electricity use, so it would take several purchases of blocks, at $2.50 per block, to make a house entirely dependent on wind power.

@ATD Sub heds:Skico invests in program

@ATD body copy: Church said Holy Cross buys five megawatts of wind power outright from Xcel Energy, one of its major suppliers. It has sold most of that five megawatts to its customers, but has 1,000 blocks still available. An insert promoting wind power will be sent out early in 2003, most likely in February.

Holy Cross’ service area stretches from Aspen to Vail, excluding most of the municipalities. However, some parts of Aspen outside of the town core receive electricity from Holy Cross.

Church said that the city of Aspen, the Aspen Skiing Co. and Vail Resorts are among the biggest purchasers of wind power from Holy Cross.

About 6 percent of the Skico’s electricity usage is now from wind power, according to Environmental Affairs Director Auden Schendler.

The Skico powers Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain, the Tiehack lift at Buttermilk and the Thunderbowl Lift at Aspen Highlands with wind-generated electricity as well as the Cirque Lift at Snowmass.

It teamed with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency and other partners in November to raise $25,000 to buy wind power for Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen gondola for the winter.

Adding the gondola to the program will keep 1.6 million pounds of greenhouse gases out of the air this winter, according to Udall.

@ATD Sub heds:Wind from northern Colorado

@ATD body copy: Church said most of the wind power purchased by Holy Cross comes from Xcel Energy’s Ponnequin Wind Facility in northern Colorado.

When a customer such as the Skico or a midvalley household buys wind power, it isn’t necessarily receiving wind power for its specific use. Instead, participation assures that some of the electricity produced comes from wind power.

Church said electricity production and usage could be thought of as a lake. When you pour a gallon of water into the lake, you won’t receive that exact same water when you remove a gallon.

Electricity works the same way. Two blocks of wind power purchased by a household go into the total electricity pool, not to the specific household.

The bottom line is, the purchase of wind power substitutes use of electricity produced by coal-burning plants.

Church said wind power costs more for customers because the Colorado Public Utilities Commission said Xcel Energy’s wind program must “fly or die on its own.” Building the wind farm and operating it couldn’t be subsidized by the remainder of the business.

Despite the higher costs, Church said wind power is still a bargain.

“For less than a dime per day you can really help the environment,” he said.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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