United States

United States

Laptop revolution predicted for wind

Wind energy is on the brink of huge growth in a deregulated US electricity market. So predicts Dale Osborn, founder of Distributed Generation System Inc (DisGen) in Colorado and a former chief executive officer of US Windpower, before its name change to Kenetech. "Every shopping centre, every corner store will have the ability to self-generate in the next year at a cost of five cents a kilowatt hour," Osborn says. DisGen is developing Colorado's first wind farm under a green pricing programme run utility Public Service Co (story page 18).

Visionaries who spurred on the computer revolution -- including some of the founders of Compaq computers -- are poised to enter the electricity business, maintains Osborn. They will replicate the success of distributed computer networks by fostering a market for wind, PV and micro-cogeneration systems.

This will open up new opportunities for distributed small wind turbine installations in the US, he adds, going along with the vision of a new American wind market model of turbine clusters being supported by a Department of Energy programme, the Distributed Wind Turbine Verification Programme (Windpower Monthly, September 1997). Small, short term projects pegged to premium priced green energy will dominate the future US market, according to Osborn. In a role switch with the US, he says Europeans are now focusing on larger projects, even though distributed projects have been the norm in Europe.

Utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Osborn says, have made a mistake in cutting their R&D staffs and firing big thinkers on clean energy, such as Carl Weinberg, well known in the American wind industry for his support to renewable energy policies. "They are cutting exactly the wrong people," he says. "Utilities are going to wake up one day and find out that 20% of their best customers are gone."

Osborn, who shared his views at the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference in Austin, Texas, in June, has assisted Public Service Co of Colorado in setting up its green pricing programme for a 22 MW wind project. The initial 4.5 MW phase of the project will be built under a traditional independent project financing scheme. Subsequent phases will be developed and owned directly by PSCo. Osborn brags that his new market model for the green pricing project cost PSCo a "brutally inexpensive" $110,000.

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