Speaker: Businesses, states push growth in wind power
DENVER -- Farmer Chris Rundell's venture with other landowners on Colorado's southeastern plains is the kind of story that advocates cite as an example of the progress wind energy has made.
The cooperative formed by Rundell and his partners has won a contract with Xcel Energy, the state's biggest provider of electricity, to provide 69 megawatts from a 46-turbine wind farm the group will build.
Similar projects cropping up in rural communities nationwide as well as large facilities by multinational corporations underscore what could be record-breaking growth, industry officials say.
"The last five years, things have just really ramped up," said Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, which opens its three-day national convention today in Denver.
The group expects about 4,000 participants and exhibits by more than 200 companies. Speakers include executives with such industry powerhouses as General Electric Co. and Shell Wind Energy, and members of renewable energy alliances.
Swisher expects the conference to be the association's biggest in a year that could see up to 2,500 megawatts of new wind power -- enough for about 700,000 homes. He said higher natural gas prices and new technology have made wind energy more economically competitive while environmental concerns about traditional fuels are growing.
Even so, the country gets only 0.6 percent of its electricity from wind power. The wind energy association predicts wind power will produce 6 percent of the nation's electricity by 2020.
Much of the push is coming from businesses and states, Swisher said.