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Wind Farmers: Power Is Their Crop

October 20, 1985|TERENCE M. GREEN

Each chorus of an old sea chantey begins, "Blow, ye winds of the morning; blow, ye winds, high ho!" That could well be the theme song of the winds generating electricity at the large and growing number of wind farms, perhaps without narrowing it down only to the mornings.

The most recent figures from the American Wind Energy Assn., based in Alexandria, Va., show that wind generation of electricity in California last July--90.7 million kilowatt hours--was more than three times the 30.5 million kilowatt hours produced in July, 1984.

And power produced by California's wind farms during the first seven months of this year totaled 348.6 kilowatt hours, enough, the wind energy association said, to provide power to 58,000 average households for an entire year.

"The summer of 1985 has been one of remarkable progress for our industry," Tom Gray, the association's executive director, said, "and it provides a taste of what will happen over the next few years as this promising technology really gets off the ground."

The Electric Power Research Institute, quoted in Southern California Edison Co.'s newsletter Energy Scene, reported that, nationally, the wind turbine (electrical generation) business expanded tenfold in four years, from $45 million in 1981 to $472 million in 1984.

Returning to the Southland, the wind energy association said, "Wind farms in Southern California Edison's service territory, which include the wind farm development in the areas of San Gorgonio Pass and the Tehachapi Mountains, already this year have more than doubled the entire output in 1984.

"Pacific Gas & Electric Co., not to be outdone, set a new record in July, 1985, for wind-power purchases by a single utility, buying 61.5 million kilowatt hours."

The association said the grand total of electricity generated by California wind farms through the end of July (the association was founded in 1974) stood at 588.7 kilowatt hours, an amount that would meet the needs of nearly 100,000 homes for a whole year, and added:

"If oil had been burned to produce that much power, more than 980,000 barrels would have been used and nearly 6 million pounds of pollutants would have been emitted into the atmosphere."

Turning to potentials, the association quoted a General Electric study that there is enough wind energy available in the United States to provide more than a trillion kilowatt hours a year, an amount equivalent to 13.5% of the entire projected U. S. energy demand in the year 2000.

"The wind energy industry is demonstrating that it must be taken seriously as an alternative to traditional sources of electricity, such as coal, oil and nuclear power," Gray concluded. "Not only is wind a domestic energy source that requires no imports, it is far less destructive of the environment than many of its polluting competitors."

Energy efficiency in new houses is a very important factor in home shoppers' decisions about buying, according to a recent survey by Southern California Gas Co. and Great Western Real Estate (formerly Walker & Lee).

The report was based on preferences stated in survey forms filled out by more than 1,200 shoppers in 61 Southern California new-housing developments and designed to measure attitudes about design, home features and life styles.

Energy efficiency was listed as a "very important" factor by 61% of the respondents in forming their ultimate decisions as to whether or not to buy, the report said, topping several other factors that were also considered, including a better neighborhood, house size and design features.

The gas company also found that natural gas was "overwhelmingly" preferred over electricity "for all household functions--cooking, space heating, water heating and clothes drying."

Natural gas got the largest vote for water heating, with 92% saying they preferred natural gas. The smallest margin of preference for natural gas was for clothes drying, "but even here gas was preferred over electricity by a margin of four to one."

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