Georgia Magazine - September 2012 - (Page 16)

Georgia’s energy outlook BY ALAN SHEDD, DIRECTOR OF RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL ENERGY PROGRAMS, TOUCHSTONE ENERGY Fourth in a series Is wind power feasible in Georgia? W hen people think about generating electricity from renewable energy, images of wind turbines often come to mind. In fact, large wind turbines are becoming more commonplace in areas of the country where the wind blows unimpeded, such as the Great Plains. Electric co-op members in Georgia frequently ask if using a wind turbine to generate electricity at their homes is a smart idea. More often than not, the answer is no. The average wind speed in Georgia is low, and when you combine that with the high cost to install the turbines, it’s usually not a good investment. Wind speed makes a big difference. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlanta is the windiest spot in Georgia with an average annual wind speed of 9.1 mph. The speed ranges from a high of 10.9 mph in March to a low of 7.3 in August. Other cities are lower (Augusta’s average is 6.4 mph). While that doesn’t seem like a big difference in wind speed, an increase from 6 mph to 9 mph represents three times more power. The actual wind speed at your location, the surrounding terrain and the height of the tower where the turbine is mounted, all play an important part in how much electricity can be generated. For example, a tall tower puts the turbine in a stronger, less disturbed wind current but requires more land and can be a zoning issue. The design of the wind turbine also plays a key role in the amount of electricity produced. One popular residential wind turbine doesn’t generate electricity if the wind speed falls below 8 mph and doesn’t deliver full power until the wind is blowing at 29 mph. As a result, this wind turbine will produce little power during the summer in Atlanta and may sit idle most of the time in Augusta. Wind turbines, the towers, equipment and installation are expensive even though federal and state income tax credits may reduce the cost of your system. To find out how a residential wind turbine performs, Coastal Electric Cooperative installed a turbine on a 60-foot tower at their office in Midway and has been monitoring the power output of the system by computer. According to Mark Bolton, Coastal’s vice president of communications, marketing and economic development, the $18,000 system, installed June 2, 2010, has produced only enough energy to power a home for a few days. Two similar systems were installed at Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega and at North Habersham Middle School in Clarkesville as part of a Wind Power for Schools project co-funded by Green Power EMC, the largest green utility in the state, and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Data from these sites, used by students as part of their math and science curriculum, show similar low-power production. To assess the potential for generating electricity at the utility scale, Green Power EMC installed a wind-monitoring tower on top of Oglethorpe Power Corp.’s Rocky Mountain Pumped Storage Hydroelectric facility in Floyd County. After collecting data and studying alternatives, the group concluded there was not enough wind to make the project practicable. Still interested in looking at resiMore online at Keep in mind that the feasibility of wind power is site-specific. What works in one area may not work in yours. dential wind power? Keep in mind that the feasibility of wind power is site-specific. What works in one area may not work in yours. Get a site survey done by a reputable contractor. It is better to spend some money on a survey and know what the facts are before you commit to a project. Check with the Small Wind Certification Council, www.smallwindcer, and make sure your contractor has the training and experience needed. Contact your local cooperative for more help. A Georgia Tech graduate, Alan Shedd is the director of residential and commercial energy programs for Touchstone Energy, based in Arlington, Va. GEORGIA MAGAZINE 16

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - September 2012

Georgia Magazine - September 2012
Picture This?
Georgia News
Liberty Notes
Calendar of Events
Georgia's Energy Outlook
Dedicated to duty
Resolved, for good
The 2012 Washington Youth Tour
Focusing on the future
Around Georgia
My Georgia
Georgia Gardens
Georgia Cooks

Georgia Magazine - September 2012