Wind Energy and LA Green

By Felicia Orth
April 2009

Occasionally, advertising inspires. The commercial opens with what appears to be a very rude fellow lifting a woman's hem, throwing sand in a child's face, mussing a woman's hair, knocking off a man's hat, rattling a window shutter and turning over a tent. The large Frenchman sadly says that he was always misunderstood, and that people didn't like him because he got on their nerves: "Maybe I came on too strong... it was lonely." One day, someone accepted him for what he is and now he feels good at something. "Mr. W" turns out to be the Wind, finally put to work doing something useful rather than merely annoying, as he spins turbines to produce energy. (Check out "Mr. W" on YouTube. While you are on that site, check out "LA Green for a Cleaner, Greener New Mexico," as well.)

Wind power is one form of renewable energy and produces no greenhouse gases during operation, such as carbon dioxide and methane. It also reduces the need for other forms of electrical generation, such as fossil fuels, and thus reduces the emissions of pollutants into the air and surface water. Wind power is generated in many places around the world; some of the larger wind farms are offshore. Producers of renewable energy in New Mexico and elsewhere in the nation feed the power into the electrical grid along with other producers of non-renewable energy. The renewable energy producers sell the power at market rates but also sell Renewable Energy Credits (REC) for each kilowatt-hour generated to help subsidize the costs of its facilities as well as to facilitate the expanded demand for renewable energy. The Department of Public Utilities is purchasing RECs from various producers to meet customer demands for LA GREEN.

The Department's initial purchase in 2005 of 200 megawatt-hours of renewable energy credits was generated at the New Mexico Wind Energy Center located in eastern New Mexico approximately 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Fort Sumner, New Mexico. When credits generated there were unavailable, three more recent purchases, each 5,000 megawatt-hours, were made from a wind energy facility in Texas.

Wind is not the only renewable energy providing electricity to the County - Last year, almost 30 percent of electricity delivered to Los Alamos was from renewable energy sources, including electricity generated from the two county-owned hydroelectric plants at Abiquiu and El Vado. Wind power must be sourced from large facilities elsewhere, however. A Renewable Energy Feasibility Study conducted by the Laboratory in collaboration with the County found that generating electricity from wind in Los Alamos is not feasible due to local patterns of wind velocity and direction.

Current participation in LA Green includes Barranca Elementary School, the County Eco Station, and nearly a dozen commercial customers, including Los Alamos National Bank, Pajarito Ski Hill, the YMCA, the Real Deal Theater, Sage Cottage Montessori, and the Animal Clinic. Don Taylor Photo Studio is the newest commercial participant. Residential LA Green customers number 330, with an additional nine families who signed up as part of the PEEC Earth Day Festival. Of the green power purchased to date, 66% has been sold.

There is still plenty of room for growth in the LA Green program, and expanding demand will prompt the purchase of additional RECs. Los Alamos County Council adopted the ordinance in April 2005 to make renewable energy available after a survey that year showed 58% of County residents polled reporting that they were "very likely" to purchase renewable energy if it cost $5 or less per month. A local customer satisfaction survey conducted this past February for the Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities included a new question on the importance of increasing efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Most residential and commercial customers (79 percent and 72 percent, respectively) rated "Increased Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gases" as important or very important. If you were one of these customers, and have not yet signed up to participate in LA Green, please consider it as an opportunity to put your values into action, and take a stand for sustainability. Many thanks!


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