A packed house listened this morning at the first WIndiana wind energy conference at the Indianapolis Convention Center as Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman ran the numbers. Indiana now has 130 MW of wind power in place (up from 0 at the beginning of the year), and will have 530 MW (enough to power 132,500 homes) by the end of this year. She also noted that 2500 MW of new wind is in planning in 15 counties in Indiana. According to Wind Powering America, each 1000MW of wind power has a $1.3 billion economic impact on Indiana.
This represents a major step away from Indiana's almost total dependency on coal. While Indiana gets 96% of it's electric power from coal, the national average is 50%. This places Indiana in a precarious position as coal prices rise due to international demand, a carbon tax or cap and trade system, and tighter emission controls phase in. Dirt cheap coal-fired electricity is about to go the way of $2.50 gas, and that may not be all bad for the Hoosier state.
Unlike coal-fired power plants, wind farms emit no sulfur dioxide or nitrous oxide or particulates or mercury or carbon dioxide and they don't require cooling water. Indiana has a wealth of free wind and an excellent transmission grid connected to major markets in other states. According to Larry Flowers of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, new wind power is cheaper than new coal powered electricity. You can view the presentation he gave this morning here. Wind is an intermittant resource and it will never replace all coal plants, but it can be a substantial portion of a renewable energy portfolio along with solar, biomass and other renewables. Indiana will play a key role in the national goal of 20% wind energy by 2030.
Day 2 of WIndiana 2008 will feature the major utility companies' take on the situation. The second half of the morning will feature two tracks: one for Indiana manufacturers wishing to learn how to get into the business of manufacturing the giant turbines and another for small wind systems suitable for small businesses or homes. The conference will conclude with tours of big wind and small wind installations.