A green wind's blowing through Georgia - Diane Wagner

My electric bill is going up, and I couldn't be happier.

Georgia Power Co. is offering 100 kilowatt-hour blocks of green energy for an additional $5.50 a month. That means it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is.

Green?or clean?energy is electricity generated from renewable sources such as the wind, the sun and landfill gas. According to Georgia Power, the extra fee pays the additional cost of buying green energy from the relatively few companies that produce it. In the long run, costs should decrease as demand rises and more entrepreneurs are encouraged to go into the market.

The U.S. Department of Energy is encouraging so-called wind farms, clusters of turbines set in areas with reliable wind speeds, with federal tax credits and incentive payments. Some states like Texas are already requiring their utility companies to produce a percentage of their power from renewable resources.

And what's not to like about the technology?

A DOE position paper estimates that the states in the Great Plains alone have enough wind to theoretically meet the electricity demand for the entire country.

The three largest wind farms in the world are in California, each with thousands of wind turbines. Technological advances are continuing to increase their capacity and efficiency, which bodes well for a price cut someday.

The DOE said the average capacity of a typical wind turbine was around 150 kilowatts in the early 1980s. Now, a typical capacity is about 750 kilowatts and turbines as large as 6 megawatts are in development.

Also, in many states farmers and ranchers can lease their property to wind power companies, creating a predictable cash crop to boost the economies in some poor rural areas.

So, I'm thinking my piddly little tax cut from the president could actually do some good for the country if I pop it into green energy next year. Blowing it all on a new pair of leather shoes made by children in Nicaragua somehow pales in comparison.

Georgia Power is initially planning to buy 83 percent of its power from landfill-to-energy projects, about 16 percent from wind farms and about 1 percent from solar sources. That, of course, is liable to change once the true demand becomes apparent.

Customers can sign up now for the Green Energy Rate, although the actual electricity isn't scheduled to start flowing through the power grid until Jan. 1, 2004. Call 1-800-735-7791 or go to the company's Web site at www.georgiapower.com/greenenergy.

When you think about the ripple effect an extra $66 a year could have?on our industry, health, environment and possibly even foreign policy?there's an incredible return on the investment.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 and dwagner@henryherald.com.