Day 2 of Indiana's first WIndiana wind conference (see previous post for Day 1) began with a panel of utility company representatives talking about the opportunities and obstacles presented by wind power. Panel members included David Ziegner Commissioner of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Greg Wagoner representing Wabash Valley Power, Larry Brown of the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Marc E. Lewis, Indiana Michigan Power Company, Diane Jenner of Duke Energy and Richard Benedict of Indianapolis Power and Light.
Larry Fowler pointed out that wind energy was not on the Indiana radar ten years ago when a remark was made at an energy conference that "wind opportunities in Indiana are negligible." He also noted that when Fowler Ridge Wind Farm is completed, Indiana will find itself among the top 15 wind states in the country. Some common themes among the panel members were that wind is something they are investing in to diversify their portfolios and hedge against the potential for carbon legislation or a national or state Renewable Portfolio Standard (found in 26 states, but not in Indiana). All expressed some concerns for greater implementation of wind power:
predominantly off-peak power, not mid-summer hot afternoon
intermittant power with 15% to 30% capacity factor (rated production not available all the time)
the transmission infrastructure is outdated and not designed to handle new power resources and there's a long queue to get new projects on the grid
the alternative energy Production Tax Credit expires at the end of 2008 and a predictable tax credit environment is necessary to make investment more attractive
uncertainty over carbon legislation; most favored Federal legislation to set the rules of the game as soon as possible so companies could plan their future in a carbon-constrained world, which most agreed was inevitable
Rising costs are also inevitable according to many of the panelists for wind and for fossil fuels due to rising global demand for fuels and resources needed to manufacture plants, turbines and wiring. With carbon legislation and stricter emissions controls looming, Greg Wagoner of Wabash Valley said predictions of electric power price increases by industry experts ranged from 30% to 150%.
Duke Energy's Diane Jenner listed Energy Effciency as their "fifth fuel" after coal, gas, nuclear and renewables.
I spent the rest of the morning listening to the other end of the wind power spectrum, small wind (typically systems under 100 kW) that run on the other side of the electric meter. Another track at the conference explored opportunities for Indiana manufacturers to get into the wind business.
With small wind systems, you can create your own wind power plant for your home, farm or business. More on that in the next blog, including the story of theTime Factory, a small business in Indianapolis with it's own wind turbine and how it will have a 7-year payback with a little help from the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.
This first WIndiana conference appeared to be a successful and well-run venture with over 300 attendees.