Wind power program brings commitments from county firms

Western Disposal’s recycling coordinator read last year about Public Service’s “Windsource” program to harness the winds for the electrical needs of its customers.

“She brought the newsletter from her residential statement in from

home,´ said Western’s sales manager, Bryce Isaacson. “We all thought it was a great idea (to sign up for the program).”

The trash handling company contacted Public Service about the program. After weighing all the factors, workers decided “very unanimously” to buy 100 percent wind-generated electricity for the administration building, the largest at its east Boulder complex.

Wind-generated power is actually indistinguishable from the rest of Public Service’s mostly coal-generated electric grid. But Western’s buildings are metered separately, so a 35 percent premium — an extra 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour over the usual 7 cent rate — is charged on that building’s usage alone.

The premium goes to pay for the construction and maintenance of 14 wind turbines blooming like a 21st century prairie rose on ranch land leased near the Wyoming border.

“We view ourselves as more than a disposal and recycling company,” Isaacson said. “(The premium) wasn’t substantial enough to be prohibitive but did require a philosophical commitment for us to say we’re in the environmental field for the big picture.”

Quite a number of people in Colorado have made that “philosophical commitment,” to be sure. There are about 4,400 subscribers now, including approximately 50 business customers around the state, most concentrated in the Boulder County area, said Andy Sulkko, Public Service’s product manager for the project.

Though “overall consumption of energy is going up in the state (because of the tremendous growth),” he said, the amount of energy generated by Windsource — though meager — still is helping to reduce the amount of energy produced by coal-generating plants.

“It’s a first start,” Sulkko said, “but a meaningful start. Our customers wanted it, so we’re providing it.”

Another Boulder County company that signed up early is McStain Enterprises. The residential home-building company felt compelled to take its corporate environmental commitment a step further.

“We have a very strong environmental program,´ said Kristin Shewfelt, McStain’s research and product development manager. “We thought this would strengthen it that much more. All of our model homes will convert a portion of their monthly utility usage to wind generated electricity.”

In addition, the builder will display Windsource brochures and other renewable energy information at all of the house models in a cooperative effort with Public Service to educate the energy-consuming public. The company, which uses recycled products wherever possible, such as cellulose insulation made from recycled newspapers, re-engineered lumber products in subflooring, sheathing and some stud materials, and carpeting made from recycled pop bottles, will pay the Windsource premium on up to 15 percent of its electric bills at its corporate

offices as well as its models.

Three levels of commitment are available. McStain is considered a “supporter” at the 15 percent level. A Windsource “leader,” like Western Disposal, agrees to pay between $1,200 and $6,000 extra per year.

“That’s considered a very significant amount,” Sulkko said.

At the highest, or “champion,” level, users commit to buying at least 250 100-kilowatt blocks of wind-generated electricity per month at 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Each block totals $2.50 over the normal rate. The average household uses 600 kilowatt hours every month.

The first phase of seven turbines already is generating electricity, and the first Windsource customers will be billed in February, Sulkko said.

Regardless of the extra cost, it’s obvious that many Coloradans are ready to “show the money” in their commitment to the environment.

“We think it’s great something like Windsource is available,” Shewfelt said. “The time is right for it.”