Wind energy project draws interest of state legislators.
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Wind energy project draws interest of state legislators.

Date: August 28, 2006
By: Lucie Wolken
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Members of Missouri's Energy Task Force questioned the state's Natural Resources Department about the viability of it's project to develop wind-generated energy for the state.

The department has been sponsoring experimental projects on wind technology, pooling together federal and state funds.

In 2003, the department first heard of high-resolution wind maps developed by contractors as a new technology to increase potential for utilizing wind power, according to Rick Anderson, energy policy analyst for the department.

Anderson described for the task force the basics of wind energy, how the resource is mapped, refinements in technology, developing Missouri wind technology, and new interest in wind energy by private investors.   

But members of the task force, which included Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis and Senator David Klindt, questioned Anderson on issues concerning the reliability of wind energy, cost effectiveness of wind as an alternative to fossil fuels, equipment necessary to sustain the use of wind power, life span of wind farms, as well as costs involved in the process. 

While wind technology is still developing significantly, Davis noted that one of the criticisms of wind energy is its reliability.

"The conventional wisdom that I have been hearing is that it is still only reliable only 40 to 50 percent of the time.  Is that a fair statement," Davis asked

Anderson replied that while wind is not constant, it is predictable from weather forecasts.  "It's not a matter of reliability, it's a matter of it being predictable," he said.

"They can predict  when it is going to be and plan their fossil operations to dove tail with the resource.  It takes a change in mindset, and that means there's a learning curve."

Anderson said private business is expressing interest in the issue.

In a later interview, he said that an investment group out of St. Louis has raised $140 million for two wind energy projects.  The investment firm first started showing interest in wind for a project in March of 2005 and since has brought on to the project a source for capital and a buyer for the necessary equipment, Anderson said.

"Wind energy now appears to have more growth opportunity then many may have thought a year ago."