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The Norman Transcript: Pennsylvania 'definitely taken the lead in wind power'

End staffing minimal but jobs pay well
By Mona Ridder
Considerable potential for positive economic impact from wind electric generation exists in the region as evidenced in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
Wind farm construction employs large numbers of people for short periods while the end staffing is minimal with only a few people required to maintain the facilities. The jobs, however, are considered well-paying.
Pennsylvania and New York are the largest wind generated electric producers in the eastern part of the United States, generating 129 and 186 megawatts, respectively, with West Virginia in third place at less than half that capacity with 66 megawatts.
“Pennsylvania has definitely taken the lead in wind power,” said Jim Cookman, vice president for development with US Wind Force, headquartered in Wexford, Pa. “Gov. (Ed) Rendell has put a lot of resources behind wind power development, including efforts to locate manufacturers in the state.”
In September, Gamesa, a Spanish manufacturer of wind generation components, announced its U.S. headquarters and East Coast development would be located in Philadelphia, where it is expected to generate 1,000 jobs in five years. A plant proposed for Ebensburg, near Johnstown, is to generate 500 construction jobs to be followed by 236 permanent positions for the manufacture of wind turbines.
“There’s no reason why Maryland and West Virginia can’t have the same kind of economic development in the wind industry,” said Cookman. “The cost of transporting the turbines and the blades, which are huge, is one of the biggest expenses in developing wind farms; it makes sense to manufacture them closer to where they’ll be used.”
It would also make maintenance and replacement less costly.
Energy as a whole is a target industry in state, according to Jan Dickinson of the West Virginia Development Office, noting the state is “rich in energy resources.”
“We are always trying to recruit manufacturing,” she said. “It is no secret that manufacturing is leaving the U.S. and we are targeting retaining and new manufacturing but not specifically manufacturing for the wind production industry.”
West Virginia has one wind project in operation with 44 turbines, the largest wind farm in the East.
The project is located on Backbone Mountain in Tucker County and will be dwarfed by the up to 200-turbine wind farm project being developed by Nedpower to be operated by Shell WindEnergy at Mount Storm in Grant County.
Tim O’Leary of Shell said that the company focuses on the development and operation of utility-scale wind farms.
“Working with our partners in Europe and the U.S., we have advanced rapidly from early pilot projects to commercial-scale wind energy production,” he said. “As wind energy becomes increasingly competitive with conventional power sources, we aim to be one of the industry’s leading players and a force for progress in this rapidly developing sector.”

He said that Shell has wind projects under development in Texas, Hawaii, California, Wyoming, Idaho and in Europe, and the company plans to continue to initiate other wind projects.
In addition to concerns about the environment, viewshed and issues related to the health and welfare of the people and animals living near the wind projects, there are people who don’t believe the relatively small amount of electricity produced by the large numbers of turbines warrant the cost.
The average generating capacity per wind turbine is a maximum of 2.5 megawatts, according to Cookman.
“There are smaller turbines that can generate 1.5 megawatts, and the size of the turbine used is determined by the site and wind potential, or regime, of the site,” he said.
Using 2.5 megawatt turbines operating at full capacity, it would require 72 turbines to meet the same output as the Mexico Farms AES Warrior Run coal-fired plant’s 180-megawatt output, according to the calculations.
The federal government concluded in a report in 2000 that the average cost of electricity from wind energy had dropped from 50 cents per kilowatt hour in 1980 to a projected 6 cents per kilowatt hour in 2000 in favorable wind regimes. Despite those gains in reducing costs, the wind technologies were still not generally commercially viable. A cost of 2 to 2.5 cents per kilowatt would be more acceptable economically, according to the report.
That is why states and the federal government have created incentives for wind farm projects, Cookman said, adding that with President Bush’s current push — as announced in his State of the Union address recently — for more research and development into renewable energy sources, specifically wind, those costs are likely to continue coming down to a point incentives will no longer be needed.
Mona Ridder writes for the Cumberland (Md.) Times-News.

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