Windmills on the horizon

“Peco’s wind program needs your help to work” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 14, 2005).

Driving through Somerset County in Western Pennsylvania, my eyes are drawn to the giant turbines ahead, which loom over the horizon like apocalyptic watchtowers. To some, they are scars upon the landscape. To others, they are deadly blades taking down hawks and migratory birds alike. To me, they are the winds of hope. Specifically, the wind farms of hope.

Thanks to Peco Wind, launched in May 2004, and wind farms throughout Pennsylvania, Peco customers have the option, and I daresay the obligation, to support green energy. Nearly a year into the program, Peco announced yesterday that it has about 11,000 participating customers. This enables Peco to buy and supply its electrical grid with wind energy. With less than 1 percent of Peco’s total energy supplied by wind, perhaps it’s just a trickle now, but we quite literally have the power to change that.

Peco customers have the option of buying wind energy in blocks of 100 kilowatt hours. For each 100-unit block, you pay an additional $2.54. Some may choose to buy the equivalent of their total energy bill in wind energy. For the typical usage of about 700 to 800 kwh a month, that would add $18 to $20 to the energy bill.

But even if we don’t make the leap to a totally green energy bill, there’s room for many of us to contribute, and this encourages us to take a serious look at the program. Whether you opt in for 100, or 200 like me, or 1,000 kwh a month of wind energy, you are making a commitment to pollution-free energy.

Consider the environmental benefits. According to Peco, signing up for 100 kwh a month of wind energy is the equivalent of not releasing 1,316 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. It’s like planting 89 trees or not driving 1,142 miles. All this for $2.54 a month.

As a sign of its commitment to wind energy, Peco’s own utility bill will be increasing this month, too. President Denis O’Brien announced yesterday that the energy provider is committed to buying 2,582 megawatt hours of wind power for the next three years. This will ensure that 10 percent of Peco’s Center City headquarters is supplied by wind energy.

Granted, the wind energy you buy does not make its way directly from a windmill to your television set, but it does enable Peco to obtain more of its electricity from wind farms. And this is a good thing. As our electricity grid grows greener, our reliance on nonrenewable energy sources will diminish.

Critics of wind energy say that these wind farms ruin earth’s natural landscape. I believe this argument went out years ago, back when humans first left caves and forests and went into the construction trade. By the time that first house was built, and long before Toll Bros. came on the scene, our natural landscape was anything but.

Without green energy – perhaps not in the foreseeable future, but sometime down the line – the toll on the landscape will be much greater than anything inflicted by a fleet of windmills. Who can argue that the unabated use of nonrenewable energy will one day destroy that landscape beyond repair?

If we are going to enjoy the plugged-in lifestyle we so depend upon and enjoy Earth’s natural playground at the same time, we must begin the move to green energy.

Yes, even if that means windmills on the horizon.

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