SOMERSET TOWNSHIP, Somerset County -- Officially dedicating Pennsylvanias two largest wind farms, Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chairman Glen R. Thomas today hailed the Somerset and Mill Run wind farms and the growth of renewable energy as more positive results from the No. 1 electric-competition program in the nation.
"These wind farms, the second and third in Pennsylvania, support the adage: If you build it, they will come," Chairman Thomas said. "Many Pennsylvania consumers want green power. And nearly 120,000 electric customers now have made that choice thanks to Electric Choice. The Somerset and Mill Run wind farms, the nearby Green Mountain Energy wind farm and others coming online soon ensure a steady supply of wind generation to meet customer demand. These new wind farms represent Pennsylvanias own Field of Dreams.
"Public/private partnerships like this project provide customers with more choices. The PUC is exploring ways to make it even easier and less costly to provide and choose alternative power sources like wind energy and fuel cells."
Communicating with wind officials via walkie-talkie, Chairman Thomas gave the instructions to start up the nine-megawatt Somerset wind farm, within view of travelers along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The 213-foot-tall Somerset wind turbines each have three 115-foot blades -- and are some of the largest wind turbines in the United States.
The two new wind farms, marketed by Exelon Power Team and Community Energy Inc., will help to nearly triple the amount of wind energy in the Eastern United States, supplying about 63 million kilowatt hours of emission-free electricity annually, enough to power 8,200 Pennsylvania homes. Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Giant Eagle Inc., Philadelphia Suburban Water Company and others already have agreed to buy green power from the wind farms.
Chairman Thomas noted the vision of the Exelon Power Team and Community Energy for negotiating a 20-year contract to sell home-grown power to Pennsylvanians. He said this arrangement ensures that wind customers will see stable prices.
"Thanks to the Somerset and Mill Run wind farms, there will be 25 new, clean megawatts added to the regions electric grid," Chairman Thomas said. "The news that wind generation in Pennsylvania will serve as many as 66,500 households within three years is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the environmental, financial, government and local community support for wind in Pennsylvania.
"We may be ranked 21st nationally for wind potential, but wind developers see the Keystone State as the best place to develop wind farms on the East Coast -- because we have the best market for electric competition in the nation."
With the addition of the two wind farms this week, Pennsylvania will receive more than 30 megawatts of electricity from wind, with nearly 200 additional megawatts planned.
The four Sustainable Energy Funds provided a $3.6 million low-interest loan for the Somerset wind farm. About $2 million was used from the PECO-Exelon merger for the Mill Run wind farm. The Sustainable Development Funds were created by electric-restructuring settlement among utilities, environmentalists and consumer advocates.
Chairman Thomas also today presented the following snapshot of the strength of electric competition in Pennsylvania:
- Pennsylvania has the No. 1 electric-competition program in the nation;
- Electric competition has saved employers and families nearly $4 billion;
- Up to 1 million Pennsylvanians have cumulatively shopped for power. Nearly 600,000 currently are shopping;
- Nowhere in Pennsylvania are customers paying more for electricity than they were in 1996 -- before Electric Choice;
- Before competition, electric rates were 15 percent above the nations. Now, electric rates are 1 percent below the nations;
- According to a new report issued this summer, lower retail electricity prices will lead to the creation of 40,700 full-time and part-time jobs by 2005;
- The PUC has hosted 110 delegations from 59 countries that want to learn more about the success of Electric Choice; and
- Pennsylvania is home to a world-class Independent System Operator -- PJM -- and utilities that are becoming the nations standard. PJM has added 6,000 megawatts of power since 1996 -- an increase that came about in large part because the market sends the right price signals. That increased generation capacity will keep rates down for the entire region. This has been done without compromising reliability.
The PUC is charged with ensuring Pennsylvania consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable electric, natural gas, water, telephone and transportation service, as well as serving as stewards of competition.