USA - Ion sets wind energy in motion

Small company unveils new turbine with help from state's Green Energy Fund

Fuel-cell entrepreneur Stephen Grot credits wind-tattered flags for tempting him into the wind-power field, a journey that had heads -- and one big turbine -- turning Monday at Ion Power, just outside the Delaware City Refinery.

"We started looking at wind a couple of years ago," Grot said. "When we moved in here, we were really going through the American flags. They were getting shredded. Then we started looking around and it was flat and close to the Delaware River, and it looked like it would work for wind power."

Ion is benefiting from state and federal government programs that are available to all companies and individuals who undertake approved green energy projects.

On Monday, about 50 people turned out to watch Grot and guests carry out a ceremonial startup of the 90-kilowatt wind turbine atop a 130-foot tower outside the company's offices on Gov. Lea Road north of Del. 9.

The system is expected to produce about 100 megawatt-hours annually, about 1.5 times the power needed by Ion -- a small company that makes fuel cells and other high-tech products and distributes specialty membranes made by DuPont.

At peak output, the turbine can make enough electricity to power 10 homes, adding to a green network at Ion Power that already includes a 5-kilowatt fuel cell used to power the company's heat pump.

"This is the future," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., after visiting the plant and helping with the startup, which was stymied by Monday's unusually light March breezes.

Ion Power, Carper said, can serve as an example of what the Obama administration hopes to achieve through growing subsidies and tax credits for alternative energy.

"The idea is not just to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The idea is not just to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel. The idea is not just to reduce our enormous trade deficit, of which one third is oil," Carper said.

Ion's turbine, a reconditioned system that cost $233,000 installed, marked the latest success in a rapidly growing state and national support system for "green" alternatives.

The company received a $100,000 grant from the state's Green Energy Fund to help with the project cost, and anticipates as much as 30 percent federal tax credit.

Demand for similar Green Energy Fund assistance already dwarfs the state's program, which is financed by a surcharge on utility bills, according to officials with Gov. Jack Markell's administration.

"We do have a shortfall in Green Energy Fund to meet the demand for solar energy, in particular, and also geothermal projects," said Philip Cherry, a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control policy manager.

The potential $3 million shortfall would develop only if all projects now proposed get built, Cherry cautioned.

"We've got more applications than we have money to fund them, and we have been advising people that there will be a delay" in receiving subsidy payments, Cherry said. He estimated that the program currently has applications totaling about $5 million, but only about $2 million for grants.

Green Energy program grants are open to any individual or business planning to install a solar-electric, solar hot water, geothermal or wind system in a qualifying utility area. Delmarva Power, Delaware Electric Cooperative and several municipal systems all participate.

State officials hope the new Sustainable Energy Utility will pump more resources into green energy projects. The SEU can raise money by selling bonds, and has a goal of developing 300 megawatts of renewable energy by the year 2020.

Rachel Marcus, a renewable energy specialist with CMI Electric in Newark, said federal action that eliminated a $2,000 cap on renewable energy tax credits recently triggered a big surge in purchase.

"Business is booming. We're busier every week," Marcus said. "I think it's a combination of everything. People are realizing as the economy tanks that, once you put the system in, it's there. It's a one-time thing. We're seeing a lot of people who are on fixed incomes who are wanting to do it."

Ion expects to save $6,200 during the wind turbine's first year of service, and $240,000 over 30 years, and will receive $600 yearly from renewable energy credits.

The turbine can begin generating electricity with winds of about 7.4 mph.

Grot said the company would consider adding turbines to its 18.5 acre property, which is bracketed by the Delaware City refinery and the Environmental Protection Agency's Metachem toxic cleanup site. Ion also is considering installation of a hybrid vehicle electric recharging station, to move the company closer to a "zero carbon footprint."

For more information, please contact Trevor Sievert at ts@windfair.net

Online editorial www.windfair.net
Posted by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journaist
wind energy, renewable energy, wind turbine, wind power, wind farm, rotorblade, onshore, offshore, Principle Power

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