From John Shannon, who writes about green energy, sustainable development and economics. Email him at john[AT]borderstan.com.
Borderstan’s John Shannon interviews Harry Warren, the president of Washington Gas and Energy Services, to find out more about the future of renewable energy in DC. Part I of the interview ran Wednesday and Part II ran on Friday.
Borderstan: What do corporate executives think of renewable energy, generally? Is it an easy fit, a normal upgrade, or is it troublesome to implement into an existing grid?
Harry Warren: I think they are very interested to learn that buying grid connected wind power is very easy to do and very affordable.
Our clients span corporations, governments and non-profits such as the University of Maryland, Panera Bread of Maryland, Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., and The Phillips Collection. That’s a testament to how enthusiastic many leaders are about renewable energy options. You can see a more complete list of companies and organizations that we work with here.
Borderstan: Understanding that the wind can’t blow all the time, what is the backup power for wind and how much capacity is required? Does having to keep all that spare capacity available, actually save any money?
Harry Warren: The power grid operates with a variety of power plants constantly coming on line, going off line, and ramping production up and down to meet the varying demand for electricity over the course of the day and over the course of the year. There are always power plants idle and ready to generate more as part of the overall plan to assure reliable power. So, nothing special is needed to back up wind power. Load just shifts to other power plants when the wind isn’t blowing. When the wind is blowing, other power plants, many of which burn fossil fuels like coal, ramp their operation down.
Borderstan: When did, and why has, wind power suddenly become comparable with other kinds of electrical energy production in terms of electricity rates?
Harry Warren: The cost of wind power has come down significantly in recent years for a number of reasons, with the big driver being the increase in demand for clean energy in the U.S. and abroad. That demand has created economies of scale in the wind industry and supported research into more efficient wind turbine design and wind farm operation. In 2012, more new wind power capacity was built in the U.S. than any other type of power plant. So today, it costs as little as a fraction of a cent per kilowatt hour for a customer to include wind power as part of their electricity supply.