Holy Cross sells out wind power | VailDaily.com

Holy Cross sells out wind power

ASPEN – It’s a mighty wind that blows for customers of Holy Cross Energy these days.The last of the wind power available through the company, which also supplies energy to Eagle County, was sold earlier in 2005 after more than seven years of aggressive marketing, according to spokesman Bob Gardner.”We worked for years to get the program fully subscribed,” he said. “It was a hard sell that final year.”Holy Cross signed a contract with Xcel Energy to purchase wind power from its Ponnequin Wind Farm in northern Colorado in 1997. The contract was for five megawatts of wind power. Holy Cross offered it in increments to its 50,000 customers in the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys.The first megawatt was snatched fast by customers eager to make an environmentally friendly statement. They didn’t balk, even though the price of wind power was higher than the price Holy Cross charged for electricity generated from burning fossil fuels.Additional megawatts were added in the late 1990s and into the new century, and sales remained strong. But selling the last megawatt was no breeze. It required a lot of promotion and patience on the part of Holy Cross for about two years.”The bloom was off the rose then,” Gardner said.Nevertheless, 2,711 customers participate in the wind power program. Customers who want wind power now must put their names on a waiting list. When an existing customer who purchased the alternative energy moves away or leaves the program, Holy Cross offers wind power to the first person on the list.Ironically, Holy Cross’ availability of wind power has disappeared just when it became more economical. The average Holy Cross residential customer uses about 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. The November bill for a customer who doesn’t use wind power would be $104.52 without tax. The bill for a customer who uses all wind power would be $111.52.For the Aspen Skiing Co., one of Holy Cross’ biggest wind power customers, closing the gap helps justify its decision to buy wind power from a financial perspective, according to Skico Director of Environmental Affairs Auden Schendler.”The more cost-effective it is, the better,” he said.Like Holy Cross, Xcel has sold all of its available wind power, or 61 megawatts in the Windsource program. It’s developing a wait list for new clients. So if Holy Cross and Xcel Energy both have wait lists, why don’t they add more wind power? Gardner said wind power is currently difficult to find from its wholesale power providers. Xcel Energy’s said its Ponnequin plant is producing to capacity. The company will add wind power to match customer demands, but the price might be higher. Xcel spokesman Tom Henley said wind farms are more expensive to build right now because the turbines, with the long blades that reach into the sky, are climbing in price and steel for the platforms is soaring and becoming scarce.The popularity of wind power could fade. Natural gas is dropping in price, so the advantage of wind power isn’t as great, he said.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism