The cost of wind-generated electricity for consumers is now less that of electricity from conventional sources in some markets. An article from the Earth Policy Institute gives an interesting insight about the inroads that wind energy is making into our energy infrastructure.
When Austin Energy, the publicly owned utility in Austin, Texas, launched its GreenChoice program in 2000, customers opting for green electricity paid a premium. During the fall of 2005, climbing natural gas prices pulled conventional electricity costs above those of wind-generated electricity, the source of most green power. This crossing of the cost lines in Austin and several other communities is a milestone in the U.S. shift to a renewable energy economy.
Overall, U.S. wind-generating capacity expanded by 36 percent in 2005, reaching 9,149 megawatts. This year it could expand by 50 percent. At the end of 2005, there were commercial wind farms in 30 states. (Data at can be found here.)
Wind power generation would grow even faster if it were not constrained by the availability of turbines. General Electric, now supplying 60 percent of the U.S. wind turbine market, is sold out through 2007. Clipper Windpower, a startup turbine manufacturer, is planning to produce 20 of its 2.5-megawatt Liberty turbines per month by mid 2006 and a total of 250 turbines in 2007. Its production is also committed well into the future.
With a large, advanced-design wind turbine generating easily $100,000 worth of electricity per year, even a 3-percent royalty would earn ranchers $3,000 a year from leasing a quarter-acre of ranchland. And they can still run cattle on the land. If a proposed project in NY state is approved as expected, these 30 or so ranchers will have an average of seven turbines each, yielding roughly $21,000 a year in additional income. A decade from now, there may be thousands of ranchers who will be earning more selling electricity than they do selling cattle.
Read the complete article at Wind Energy Demand Booming: Cost Dropping Below Conventional Sources Marks Key Milestone in U.S. Shift to Renewable Energy, Earth Policy Institute, March 22, 2006
The Energy Blog: Wind Energy Costs Dropping Below Conventional Sources