MAHANOY TOWNSHIP — Gov. Edward G. Rendell set in motion the wind turbines of Pennsylvania’s newest wind farm Tuesday, saying the state’s strategic investments in and commitment to renewable energy technologies are helping the commonwealth gain energy independence, protect the environment and create new opportunities for citizens.
“This is an exciting day for Pennsylvania,” said Rendell while standing atop Locust Ridge in Schuylkill County. “This project shows the kind of growth we can achieve by committing ourselves to clean and renewable energy, and by making the strategic investments necessary to attract leading companies that create quality jobs for our men and women.
“Pennsylvania has established itself as a top destination for alternative energy companies and development projects. Some of the world’s leading companies in the field, like Iberdrola and Gamesa—the two companies involved here today—have chosen to set-up shop in Pennsylvania. They realize that they can compete and succeed here because of our commitment to growing this industry and our competitive business environment.”
The wind farm is owned by Iberdrola, the largest owner and operator of renewable energy facilities in the world, and was developed by its affiliate, Community Energy Inc. Gamesa constructed the 13 turbines at the Locust Ridge Wind Farm. Both companies are international clean energy leaders that chose to establish operations in Pennsylvania as a result of the Rendell administration’s energy policies and strategic investments.
Locust Ridge will produce 68,328 megawatt hours annually—enough emission-free electricity to power more than 6,500 typical homes each year.
Pennsylvania is already a leader in wind energy production on the East Coast with 179 megawatts of capacity, including Locust Ridge. Within the next 12 months, the commonwealth expects new wind farm projects will add another 214 MW of capacity and more than double the state’s current capacity.
“It is exciting that Pennsylvania is leading the drive towards energy independence and building solutions to climate change, like wind energy, which also grow the economy and protect electricity customers from potentially volatile fossil fuel prices,” said Brent Alderfer, executive vice president, Iberdrola Renewable Energies USA. “Thanks to Governor Rendell’s leadership and commitment to renewable energy, Iberdrola looks forward to Locust Ridge being the first of many successful wind farms that we build together.”
Iberdrola has more than 60 employees at its new corporate offices in Radnor, Delaware County. Its Community Energy affiliate, originally founded in Wayne, Delaware County, in 1999, has more than 2,000 MW of wind power capacity at projects that are already operating or are in development.
Iberdrola announced plans last year to build more than 10,000 MW of renewable energy worldwide by the end of 2011.
Gamesa, meanwhile, has invested $108 million in Pennsylvania and has created more than 800 jobs here. The company operates two manufacturing plants in Ebensburg, Cambria County, and Fairless Hills, Bucks County. Its North American headquarters is located in Philadelphia.
PPL Corporation is also a key player in the Locust Ridge Wind Power Project. Its early commitment to purchase the wind farm’s electricity and alternative energy attributes generated by the wind farm helped the developer obtain favorable financing for the project. Investors typically will not fully finance a renewable energy project unless there are credit-worthy institutions committed to purchasing the power and alternative energy credits produced.
“For PPL Corporation, making a 20-year commitment to buy the electricity generated at this wind farm was the right thing to do,” said Bill Spence, executive vice president and chief operating officer of PPL Corporation. “It was a smart business decision and it fits into our growing focus on renewable electricity generation.”
Wind power is an important piece of Rendell’s Energy Independence Strategy, which will invest $850 million to significantly expand Pennsylvania’s alternative fuel and clean energy industries, stabilize electricity rates for businesses, reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut consumer energy costs by $10 billion over the next decade.
The governor’s proposal calls for up to $500 million in grants and low-interest loans for clean energy projects and development or equipment costs for specific energy economic development projects, such as wind, solar and biomass.
“Pennsylvania has created more than 2,500 jobs in the clean energy sector, but since funding is limited, we’re only able to support 10 percent of the requests for energy dollars,” said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty. “That means we’re losing out on at least $100 million in potential investments every year. Governor Rendell’s Energy Independence Strategy will make Pennsylvania a leader in clean energy investment and significantly reduce the costs of power for residents and businesses.”
The Energy Independence Strategy, which is now pending before the General Assembly, builds on the clean energy leadership that Rendell fostered with the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The clean energy standard requires that 18 percent of energy sold in Pennsylvania come from renewable and alternative sources by 2021. The standard is expected to result in 3,000 to 4,000 MW of wind power for sale in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has also used its purchasing power to further develop markets for sustainable energy sources. This past August, Rendell announced that the commonwealth had entered into a green power purchase with Community Energy Inc. to double its green electricity purchase from 10 percent to 20 percent. By modifying its existing contract with Community Energy, the commonwealth is purchasing 200,000 megawatt hours a year, or 20 percent of state government’s electricity, from renewable sources such as wind and hydroelectric energy.
In December, Pennsylvania received a 2006 Green Power Leadership award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy for being the largest state purchaser of green electricity in the nation.