PEEC SPEAKS: Support your values, buy wind power

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By The Staff

Support your values, buy wind

Felicia Orth

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 during operation produces no greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. It also reduces the need for other forms of electrical generation, such as those burning fossil fuels, and reduces the emission 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 feed power into the electrical grid along with producers of non-renewable energy. The renewable energy producers sell the power at market rates and also sell Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for each kilowatt-hour generated. RECs help subsidize the costs of renewable energy facilities and facilitate the expanded demand for renewable energy. The Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities has been purchasing RECs from various producers since 2005 to meet customer demands for LA GREEN.

LA GREEN is your opportunity to support renewable energy for Los Alamos. Residential and commercial customers in Los Alamos can voluntarily support the purchase of electric energy generated from a renewable source such as wind, solar and qualifying hydroelectric plants.

In the program, customers can purchase renewable energy for a premium of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour over the existing rate, up to 90 percent of monthly electric consumption, by choosing one of two plans: the purchase can be made in “blocks” of 100 kilowatt-hours, one, two or more, for $1.80 each. If percentage billing is chosen, the additional monthly billing amount for LA GREEN would fluctuate based on actual usage, but a typical household would see an extra charge of between four and eight dollars, depending upon the percentage of support chosen. You can join the program for as little as $1.80 per month, and you may cancel or change the level of support at any time.

Why join? Because you are supporting long-term environmental sustainability. In this country we are still in the early days of alternative power generation technologies, and it is the early supporters who will make the difference between success and failure.

The County has made repeated investments in renewable energy, some within the County. 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.

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 became unavailable, three additional purchases, each of 5,000 megawatt-hours, were made from a wind energy facility in north Texas.

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 Movie Theater, Sage Cottage Montessori, and the Animal Clinic of Los Alamos. Don Taylor’s 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 percent 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. Let’s keep “Mr. W” constructively engaged. You can sign up for LA Green at the PEEC Nature Center on Orange Street anytime the Center is open. You can also sign up the through the Department of Public Utilities.