Wind powering up in Ohio

It’s real, it’s here, it’s working, let’s make more!

In the last couple of years, wind power has crossed the threshold in Ohio from eco-dream to market-driven reality. The transition is being driven by new turbine technology that is making the cost of wind power competitive with other forms of generation, the deregulation of the electric power industry, growing consumer demand for clean, renewable power, and the work of alternative energy organizations like Green Energy Ohio (GEO).

Here are some of the recent developments:

Serious windmills: While other parts of the country, such as the Great Plains, have greater wind resources, new wind maps are showing that Ohio also has commercial-grade wind. That's why the municipal utility in Bowling Green installed two 1.8 megawatt turbines a year ago. The sleek, aerodynamic turbines stand 390 feet tall and are the largest turbines in the U.S. east of the Rockies. They supply around three percent of the city's power needs and have been so successful that the Bowling Green utility is working with other municipal utilities in Ohio and Green Mountain Energy to install two more. Other big turbines are spouting up in southwest Pennsylvania (a big installation is visible along the Pennsylvania Turnpike by Somerset).

Lake Erie wind: The most promising sites for wind turbines in Ohio are expected to be out on Lake Erie, but most wind measurements on the lake have been made at water level, not at the height of turbines. To plug this data gap, GEO recently received funding to install a wind monitoring station on the Cleveland Division of Water's intake crib more than three miles offshore. Once the wind resource is confirmed, it's possible that commercial-scale turbines could soon be sprouting from the shallow waters of the lake - generating clean power for thousands of homes and helping to give Cleveland a new image. "Our idea is to make it a visionary statement for the city - that we are going into the new century with some clean-power options and put Cleveland on the map with this," GEO board member Fletcher Miller told the PD.

Wind jobs: In addition to being cool and clean, wind turbines can stimulate economic development in Ohio. A recent study found that the 20 states that would potentially benefit the most from the growth of the wind industry, receiving 80 percent of the job creation, are the same states that account for 76 percent of the manufacturing jobs lost in the U.S. over the last 3 1/2 years. Indeed, Ohio could be a leader in many aspects of turbine production, including tower fabrication and welding, electrical components, instruments and controls, and software. Canton-based bearing manufacturer Timken, for example, is predicting exponential growth in their sales to wind turbine companies. And Ohio farmers are embracing wind power as a reliable, low-cost power source for farm operations, as well as a potential source of extra income by leasing space in their fields for commercial turbines.

Wind conference: One more sign that wind has arrived is the Ohio Wind Power Conference (which took place November 9-10, 2004, in Cleveland). Organized by GEO, the Ohio Department of Development, and the U.S. Department of Energy and it brought together industry leaders, utility representatives, government officials, technical experts, and activists to discuss where the wind market and technology are headed.

It's fitting for wind power to come to Cleveland. After all, Cleveland inventor Charles Brush built the first automatically operating wind turbine for electricity generation in 1888 behind his Euclid Avenue mansion.

Wind is the world's fastest growing energy source with double-digit growth. We have all the ingredients in Northeast Ohio to become a leading center in this emerging industry.

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Wind turbine being assembled in rural Ohio:
Could Cleveland be next? (photo: GEO)




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