Nov. 17, 2011

October wind energy use topped 11 percent

by Anne Krapfl

A dry windy October not only gave area farmers ample time for their harvests, it also set a record at Iowa State for wind energy usage. The university purchased 1.87 million kilowatt hours of electricity last month from a wind farm in northeast Story County, the single highest production month since Iowa State started purchasing wind energy in January 2010. Director of utilities Jeff Witt said that's equivalent to the electricity consumption for October in the Vet Med complex and chemistry's Hach Hall combined.

As a result, wind energy production accounted for 11.5 percent of the university's total electrical use for October, second only to an 11.6 percent ratio last April.

"Campus demands for energy are changing all the time," Witt said. "Wind energy availability floats in and out, but we're continuing to monitor campus use of it. October's record use was good news, but still less than projections."

Iowa State's wind energy comes from a 100-turbine farm constructed north of Zearing by NextEra Energy Resources.

So far in calendar year 2011, 7.7 percent of Iowa State's electrical demand is being met with wind energy. Last year, the first year of wind energy use, 4.4 percent of the university's electricity came from the wind farm. Iowa State's goal is 10 percent annually.

April, October and November tend to be peak months for wind energy production, Witt said. June, July and August, which happen to be high-need months due to air conditioning demand, typically are low production months. Wind energy can't be stored; it has to be used as it's generated.

Besides the obvious reliance on Mother Nature, Iowa State and other local purchasers of wind energy are at the mercy of a transmission system that can't support greater electrical output at the NextEra farm. Upgrades scheduled to be completed next summer will help, but other necessary upgrades won't be done until 2015, Witt said.