Buy wind power, help CSU go greener

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Wanna buy wind without actually erecting a turbine in your backyard?

Now's your chance, thanks to a new wind program being offered by Colorado Springs Utilities, which starts in January 2013.

As you can read via the above link, customers can now purchase 100-kilowatt hour blocks at $1.24 each to offset their coal energy usage, with the wind being contracted from Xcel Energy.

I spoke to Deb Mathis, program manager for CSU, for specifics on the program, as well as some other green offerings currently available. To clear up any confusion up front, this is an offset, not a substitution for the energy your house currently consumes. So you will pay your full monthly bill, then this little bit extra. The idea is to buy blocks to offset your usage while supporting a greener utilities future; demand will drive expansion.

Using my own 800-square-foot home as an example: I called the 448-4800 yesterday, and a CSU agent told me that on average, we were consuming 200 kilowatt hours in the summer months and 300 kilowatt hours in the winter months. She recommended that I purchase three wind blocks, then, to symbolically offset my usage, at a total cost of $3.72 per month ($44.64 per year).

Apparently, the average local usage per month is closer to 600 kilowatt hours, so up to six credits may be needed for full offset.

Customers don't have to buy a 100 percent offset, and can buy as little as a single block per month or something closer to 50 percent of their usage if they care to still contribute in some fashion. Also, they can cancel at any time.

Mathis explains that earlier this year, CSU had appealed to City Council for 50 megawatts of wind to come from a wind farm that we would build, but Utilities was turned down, largely because of concerns for rate hikes.

Wind energy Colorado Springs
  • Shutterstock
  • If you want to see more of these in the future, pony up now for some wind offsets.

She says that though CSU was turned down, they ware also told to find a solution to appease customers who'd been on a waiting list for five-plus years for the previous 1-megawatt wind program, hence this much larger program now being offered.

"This is a way that people who want to support it, can, but it's not putting the burden on everyone," says Mathis. But "this shows that our community wants this — if you can show City Council that the community wants more renewables, then they'd be more apt to agree to something like that in the future."

CSU has purchased a total of 13 megawatts from Xcel, of which roughly half have been spoken for. Mathis says around 43,000 blocks remain to be sold to residences and commercial businesses.

"It's an inexpensive way to support renewable energy and further the production of it," she says. "This is walking the talk."

In addition to the wind program, CSU customers can also purchase renewable energy certificates that act in much the same manner. And solar hot water and solar photovoltaic (PV) credits remain up for grabs, too.

Residential customers can get up to $3,000 back, while commercial customers can get 30 percent of their cost refunded ($1.80 per AC watt).

For PV electric in the 2012 calender year, Mathis says $34,000 remains unclaimed on the commercial side and $224,000 on the residential side. For solar hot water in 2012, she says $20,000 remains unclaimed for residential and $30,000 for commercial.

The Solar Energy Industries Association is one good resource for connecting with local qualified contractors; Mathis recommends getting three estimates.

Also, Recharge Colorado is another great source of information on current rebates as well as on contractors.

For the record, Mathis confirms that people can get a much quicker payback from solar hot water projects than PV projects.

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