The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

March 20, 2008

Empire shooting for second source of wind-power electricity by end of year

By Derek Spellman

NEOSHO, Mo. — Empire District Electric Co. hopes to have access to a second wind-energy farm and attain its goals for wind-energy output by the end of this year, an official said Thursday.

The Meridian Way Wind Farm near Concordia, Kan., should be finished and selling power to the Joplin utility by December, said Blake Mertens, Empire’s manager of strategic projects. Crews are expected to break ground on the project sometime next month.

Once the second farm is online, wind energy should account for between 15 percent and 20 percent of Empire’s total annual production, Mertens told those attending a quarterly luncheon of the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce.

That percentage likely is the maximum that Empire will be able to attain for its total electrical production, but it still should elevate Empire to one of the industry’s “leading utilities” when it comes to wind energy’s share of total production, he said.

As of August 2007, wind energy accounted for about 8.3 percent of Empire’s total production, he said.

By comparison, wind energy represents just 0.8 percent of total electricity production in the United States, according to Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, an association of shareholder-owned electric companies in the United States.

Riedinger did note that wind power is the fastest growing source of electricity generation.

Although coal remains the predominant source of generation, Mertens said the industry as a whole is embracing wind power for both environmental and economic reasons.

“Wind is not the only solution, but it is part of the solution,” he said of addressing the nation’s growing power needs.

From an environmental perspective, wind power allows electric companies to rely less on coal and curb the emissions from coal burning, he said.

Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade association representing the wind-power industry, said wind affords utilities a more stable energy source that can help spare them from fluctuations in fuel prices. It is also a constant, available energy source.

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