The Advantages of Renewable Wind Power Energy

Find out about the advantages of renewable wind power energy and how you can buy wind power even if there are no wind turbine farms in your area.

| November/December 2003

Find out what the many advantages of renewable wind power energy are when it comes to powering your homestead.

Renewable Wind Power Energy

Today, more than 300 utility companies offer consumers the option of purchasing renewable wind power energy—most commonly electricity generated by the wind and to a lesser degree renewable energy produced from solar or biomass sources. In the past four years, participation in such programs has grown at an average of 20 percent monthly. Nationwide, ­corporations such as Nike, Patagonia, Toyota, Kinko’s, Fetzer Vineyards, Clif Bar, Ben & Jerry’s, and even the U.S. Postal Service purchase renewable energy. Anyone who pays an electric bill can do the same, regardless of where you live or who you buy electricity from. In most cases, it’s as simple as a phone call or a few clicks on the keyboard.

Does that mean that the electricity humming through the lines to your home will come directly from a wind farm? Not exactly. In fact, the only people who can be certain their electricity is generated by wind are those with a windmill in the backyard. And that’s where some people get confused.

How Renewable Wind Power Energy Works

To make sense of wind power, says Susan Peterson, a vice president at green energy marketer Renewable Choice, you have to first understand how the distribution of electricity works. “At the top of the food chain are the power producers, who sell energy to a power broker like Enron,” she explains. “The brokers regulate the flow of energy on the national power grid. Utilities buy energy from the brokers and sell energy to their consumers.”

Peterson likens the energy grid to a big pool of water filled by many different types of energy. According to the EPA, coal contributes 52 percent to the pool; nuclear 18 percent; natural gas, oil, and other fossil fuel 18 percent; and large hydroelectric 10 percent. About 2 percent is from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, small hydro, and biomass. When you turn on a light, you tap into whatever mix is in the pool. “If we all decide we want only clean power put back in the grid to replace coal or nuclear, the pool gets cleaner and cleaner for everyone,” Peterson says. “It’s like vegetable soup. If you keep putting one kind of vegetable in—say potatoes—eventually it becomes potato soup. The more wind power that goes into the grid, the cleaner the electricity becomes for everyone.”

In Austin, Texas; New York City; Sacramento; Portland, Oregon; Denver; and Madison, Wisconsin, choosing renewable energy is as simple as calling the local electricity provider. In some instances, the utility owns a renewable energy facility; in others, the utility purchases green energy from another source.

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