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Interest in wind energy on rise, experts say

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By Amanda Dolasinski
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Electricity generated by wind farms powered more than 350,000 Pennsylvania homes last year, and that number is expected to grow.

“There's demand,” said Titus North, executive director of Squirrel Hill-based Citizen Power.

Citizen Power teamed with TriEagle Energy in August 2011 to offer renewable wind electricity service to residential customers. By the end of last year, its territory covered nearly all of Pennsylvania, North said.“We're seeing basically two sources of demand,” he said. “There's a lot of people concerned about the environment, and then there's a lot of people signed up to save money.”

A typical family of four using 1,000 kilowatts of electricity would save about $30 a month by switching, North said. Subscribing to wind power is no more complicated than switching energy suppliers. Consumers don't need to buy wind turbines for yards and crews don't come to their homes to rewire electric lines. The electric company serving the area maintains responsibility for power outages.

Electricity generated by renewable energy comes through the electric grid, the network of transmission and distribution lines linking consumers to power plants. The difference is that electricity produced by wind turbines goes into the grid on behalf of homes that use renewable energy.North said savings kick in because TriEagle Energy purchases energy through the wholesale market ahead of time. When a household signs a two-year contract, TriEagle Energy pays for all of the electricity that home is expected to use, locking in the price.

Twenty-two Pennsylvania wind farms have at least 404 utility-scale turbines, according the state Department of Environmental Protection. Those turbines have the capacity to produce at least 1 megawatt, or 1 million watts, and feed power directly into the grid through a substation.

“I feel good about the electricity I'm using, and I'm saving money,” said Brady Hunsaker, 38, of Park Place. He switched to the service about a year ago. “It's a completely renewable energy resource.”

The smallest wind farm is Turkey Hill Dairy/Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority in Lancaster County, with two turbines that produce 3.2 megawatts, enough to power about 840 homes. The largest is the newest: Mehoopany Wind Farm in Wyoming County, expected to generate 144 megawatts, or enough to power about 38,000 homes.

Pennsylvania's wind farms have the potential to generate more than 3.5 million megawatt-hours per year, enough power for about 350,000 homes, according to the department.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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