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Wind Power to Shave $1M Off University Electricity Bill

Words by Andrew Burger
Investment & Markets

Ohio State University (OSU) expects to shave nearly $1 million off its energy bill in 2013, thanks to a 20-year power purchase agreement that entails buying a whopping 50 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable electricity from more than 100 wind turbines in northwestern Ohio. The wind-generated electrical power is being produced at the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties and delivered to OSU via American Electric Power (AEP) transmission lines, according to a report from the Columbus Dispatch.

OSU has set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral. More than 400 researchers are studying energy issues at the state university, and energy was recently singled out as one of three priority focus areas for university instruction and community research for the next ten years, according to Columbus Dispatch's report.

Working both inside and outside the institution of higher education, “Together, we will make Ohio State a national leader in sustainability, while investing in renewable energy produced right here in Ohio,” OSU president E. Gordon Gee was quoted as saying when the wind power purchasing agreement was signed.

Direct purchase of wind power contributes to OSU's sustainability drive

OSU has been spending some $35 million annually on electricity. The high cost of purchasing wind-generated electricity had held OSU from negotiating agreements earlier, OSU senior energy adviser, Scott Porter, told Columbus Dispatch. “We were willing to pay a premium for clean energy, but we still had to be good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars,” he was quoted as saying.
OSU's direct purchase of wind-generated power from Blue Creek also marks a milestone for Iberdrola Renewables. “This is the largest university purchase of wind power in our company’s history, and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership,” Iberdrola Renewables' vice president Barrett Stambler stated.

More wind power capacity was installed in the U.S. in 2012 than any other source of electrical power – more than double the amount of coal-fired power generation brought online last year.

The surge in U.S. wind power capacity in 2012 was propelled higher in particular by the likelihood of the key federal production tax credit (PTC) for installed wind power generation capacity expiring at year-end 2012, an incentive that was extended for another year as part of a deal that helped the US government avoid going over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.”

Iberdrola's Blue Creek Wind Farm

With wind power generation capacity rated at 304 MW, Iberdrola's Blue Creek Wind Farm is the largest in Ohio, which topped the ranks of U.S. states in terms of percentage growth in wind power generation capacity in 2011. Completed in June 2012, a total of 152 Gamesa 2.0 MW wind turbines manufactured primarily at a plant in Pennsylvania standing on 100-meter-high (328 feet) towers are up and running on site.

Each turbine can produce as much as 2 MW of clean, renewable electrical power, enough to meet the needs of around average Ohio homes. In total, Blue Creek generates enough electricity annually for approximately 76,000 homes, according to Iberdrola.

Generating electrical power from wind energy at Blue Creek avoids around 1.6 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of 158 Ohio Stadiums, planting some 138,000 acres of trees, taking 114,000 cars off the road, or reducing oil consumption by more than 2.1 million barrels per year, according to Iberdrola.

“If electric cars were widely available, this project would produce enough electricity to power 479,000 electric cars for a year. It also avoids the consumption of 408 million gallons of water per year,” the Spanish multinational renewable energy provider states on the Blue Creek project page of its website.

In addition to avoiding carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, building the wind farm has provided a substantial green economic boost to Ohio's economy. The Blue Creek Wind Farm generated some $2 million in annual lease payments to local landowners, $2.7 million in annual PILOT payments to local tax authorities, 15-20 new permanent jobs and more than 500 construction jobs at peak. Local spending during construction amounted to some $25 million.