Indiana Michigan Power provides a diverse energy portfolio, offering hydroelectric, coal and nuclear power to its customers. Now, its portfolio could soon grow even bigger as it prepares to expand its wind-energy potential.
Its parent company, American Electric Power, issued two requests for proposals Tuesday seeking long-term wind energy purchase agreements.
This was the first step toward the company's goal of adding 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy by 2011 as part of its comprehensive strategy to address greenhouse gas emissions, AEP said.
And it's a step that reflects a larger trend, an increasing emphasis on wind power throughout the nation and across the globe.
"There's a record demand, and the industry is putting in projects at a record pace," said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association.
"From the consumer point of view, it's really great news," she said, noting that wind energy can keep electricity prices stable in the long run.
AEP's requests for proposals include up to 260 megawatts of wind energy for its Appalachian Power utility unit and up to 100 megawatts of wind energy for its Indiana Michigan Power utility unit, said David Mayne, spokesman for I&M. The deadline for bids is April 30, with delivery to begin at the end of 2008.
I&M customers should see no immediate changes in their electricity rates, Mayne said. He added that using wind energy in the future won't change the quality of delivering electricity, though customers' rates will depend on the price of the wind energy.
The purchases, if approved by regulators, will mark AEP's first commercial use of wind energy in its seven eastern states, with Indiana, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia sites to be among those considered for the wind farms.
I&M announced in October that it would place meteorological test sites in east-central Indiana to explore the economic and technical feasibility of building a wind farm in the area. Mayne expects the towers to be built this year, and then it'll take about a year to complete the study, he said.
In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has now become one of the important players in the energy markets. And the United States is third only to Spain and Germany when it comes to countries with the highest installed capacity for wind, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.
One concern some people have about using wind as an energy source is "what happens when the wind doesn't blow?" Real de Azua said. But that's where improved forecasting technology and a diverse range of other alternative energy sources have come into play, she said.
Experts say using wind helps decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from traditional fossil generation. It's also cost-efficient, readily available and domestic, said Real de Azua.