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A wind superpower?

New York's future:
A wind superpower?

Wind power accounts for 1 percent of New York's generating capacity - the amount of electricity power plants could produce in a given moment if they ran full tilt. When it comes to the electricity actually generated and consumed over a full year - the kilowatt hours a customer would be charged for on an RG&E bill, for example - wind produces less than 1 percent.

To compare, nuclear and hydroelectric account for 27 percent of the state's capacity, but 45 percent of the actual electricity generated. Those two sources, for the time being, are the most economical in New York, says Gary Paslow, manager of communications for New York Independent System Operator, the organization that oversees the state's power grid. That's because of the rising cost of fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

But New York is attractive to wind developers. There's enough wind to power the turbines, state policies require increasing use of renewable energy, and laws allow consumers to specifically choose to buy wind power.

What's tough to get at is just how much wind power New York could produce. The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, ranks the state as 15th in the nation in terms development potential. But one of the most reliable estimates comes from NYISO. In a 2005 analysis, the organization studied 101 prospective wind generating sites in New York State.

The sites had a total potential capacity of 10,026 megawatts, says the analysis. One megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

But there are caveats that go along with that number: capacity is only one part of the picture, and since developers can't control when the wind blows, it's tough to predict actual output over time; the potential capacity is based on peak, not average, output; not all of the sites will be developed; and there are physical limits to what the state power grid can handle from an intermittent power source like wind.

The last bit is crucially important as a limiting factor. The NYISO study says that, based on technical factors and physics, the grid can only handle 3,300 megawatts of wind power.

Click here to read the whole article by Jeremy Moule in Rochester's City Newspaper.

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