Richard J. Maturi (Apr/May 09)
Wind power represents the thrust of the future for companies that are positioned to take advantage of it. "Wind power represents one of the ways a company can go green," says Joel Goldberg, a partner in the Energy Group of the Houston, Texas-based law firm Porter & Hedges. "They can enter into contracts to purchase clean, emission-free power or install their own wind turbines."
Consultants like Goldberg help companies analyze a number of key factors before embarking on installing wind turbines. Right at the top: Is there enough wind velocity to generate adequate capacity, typically a minimum of 11 to 13 miles per hour? And does the available wind match the company's energy load?
For a number of businesses and educational institutions around the country, the benefits of wind power are paying dividends in measurable cost savings and community good will.
"Our desire to use more renewable energy goes back many years. We are constantly striving for more efficient use of energy to power our operations and reduce the impact on the environment," says Steve Schultz, corporate energy manager for 3M Corporation. According to Schultz, 3M as a whole is on target to improve energy efficiency as much as 20 percent by 2010. Using clean power sources such as the Austin Energy's GreenChoice option at its Austin, Texas, facilities, 3M stands to benefit from more stable energy costs, since power from wind and other renewable sources is not affected by fuel adjustments associated with petroleum-based energy.
Wind power generation isn't only for industrial companies in Texas. Financial services giant USAA in San Antonio, Texas, ranks as the largest Windtricity Business Partner of CPS Energy to purchase energy from the utility's Texas wind farms. In December 2008, USAA inked an agreement to offset with wind power an amount equal to what it would take to power approximately 200 San Antonio homes a year. By offering its business customers the opportunity to purchase power from Texas wind farm developments, CPS targets reaching renewable energy capacity equal to 20 percent of its customers' peak electrical demand by 2020.
Universities are also getting into wind power, both for its practical uses and as an educational opportunity. Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, teamed up with Franklin Wind Energy Group LLC to install a wind turbine on top of the university's engineering building.
"It's a tremendous challenge to install a six-kilowatt wind turbine on an existing structure and tie into the existing grid to deliver reliable power to existing customers," says Caisheng Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering & Division of Engineering Technology. "We worked with Franklin Wind, who will provide the turbine and 50 percent of development costs. We collected wind velocities, performed vibration studies, and designed a new vertical access wind turbine to make this project work. This project provides the opportunity to cut power costs and use the wind turbine as a research and instructional tool."