Producing power from the wind has long been a part of rural life. Although the technology of extracting power from the wind has changed, the underlying principles have not. Wind is a clean, readily available, and renewable source of power. Within the United States, wind energy experts consider the central and northern Great Plains as having the greatest available wind energy resource, yet this resource has remained largely undeveloped. The development of “new” wind energy can help a struggling agricultural industry by bolstering rural economies and aiding in agricultural diversification.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the North Dakota Division of Community Services (DCS), developed the Plains Organization for Wind Energy Resources® (POWER®) to serve as a regional center of excellence for wind energy. Through POWER®, the EERC provides the educational, technical, and partnership-building resources necessary for harnessing and developing the vast wind resources of the central and northern Great Plains. The benefits of harnessing the wind resources in the region lie not only in the fact that wind energy is a clean, renewable, and abundant energy source, but also in the potential economic benefits to agriculture, rural businesses, and landowners.
The overall goals of POWER® are to:
- Provide education and training regarding all facets of wind energy.
- Provide a platform for information dissemination, data transfer, and relationship building to foster and promote wind energy development in the region.
- Work with other regional wind energy interests to provide solutions to the barriers to wind energy development in the region.
- Provide an opportunity for significant economic benefit to farmers, Native Americans, and rural communities.
- Strengthen the agricultural economy of the region with an additional and complementary revenue source.
- Develop regional strategies to help meet the future energy requirements of the United States.
POWER® will continue to perform wind energy resource assessments and provide technical assistance to partners throughout the region. This work may include projects with utilities, tribal organizations, cities and small communities, landowners, and state and federal agencies.
The program also plays a big role in data archiving and dissemination. Currently, POWER® is host to the largest publicly available wind database for the central United States.
Research and Demonstration. Successful wind energy development in this region requires demonstrated, commercially viable technologies. POWER® will continue to research, develop, and demonstrate projects
related to wind energy storage, integrated hybrid systems, marketable products from wind energy, transmission, and integration with water-related projects.
Education and Outreach. POWER® is working to develop outreach activities, such as conferences and educational workshops that support the development of wind energy in the region. Additionally, a publicly accessible Web site aids in disseminating the most
current news and information regarding wind energy and related events across the central United States.
POWER® supports the 1999 Wind Powering America (WPA) Initiative, a program designed to help harness and utilize wind energy resources across the country. The goals of this initiative are to increase U.S. wind capacity to 10,000 MW, the number of states with 20 MW of wind capacity to 24, and federal government purchase of wind power to 5% of its annual consumption by 2010. Under the WPA Program, by 2020, 5% of the nation’s electricity needs will be supplied by wind energy. This would displace 35 million metric tons of carbon a year.