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Energy Department urges New Mexico to inherit the wind

December 6, 2000
By John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

The Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories will buy wind-generated electricity in an effort to encourage the wind power industry in New Mexico, labs officials announced Tuesday.

The electricity will power 12 percent of the power needs of the Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a nuclear waste dump near Carlsbad, said Margie Tatro, head of Sandia's energy programs.

Sandia, which has a large operation at WIPP, is making the purchase as part of an Energy Department program requiring the use of renewable resources to generate 7.5 percent of the electricity used at department sites by 2010.

In making the announcement, government officials acknowledged that wind power is not yet economically competitive with electricity generated by burning coal or natural gas.

"There's a little bit of a premium," said Phil Dougherty, coordinator of the Energy Department's wind power program.

Wind power costs roughly 6 cents per kilowatt hour to generate versus 3 cents for the same amount of electricity burning conventional fuels, according to the Energy Department.

But that is likely to change in the future as technology improves, said Sandia scientist Al Zelicoff.

Enough wind blows in New Mexico to meet all our power needs with enough left over to export to other states, according to Zelicoff.

"I think the technology is just about there," he said.

Sandia will be buying the wind-generated electricity in the next year from Southwestern Public Service Company, a division of Xcel Energy. The power will come from an already-built wind turbine near Clovis.

As a result of the deal with Sandia, the company will add an additional turbine at the Clovis site.

Copyright 2000, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune
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