Power of the Future in Land of the Free; Wind Power Represents a Fraction of the UK's Energy Requirements, but the Government's Energy Review, Published This Summer, Put It at the Heart of Future Policy. in the United States, the Successes and the Setbacks Are Very Similar. Special Correspondent Joanne Morrison Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Joanne Morrison

John Roth stood on his 88-acre farm, looking up at the land he owns on the mountain ridge. He hopes someday to see a new crop that needs no fertiliser and renews itself - windmills that generate electricity and, most importantly, a steady flow of income.

Mr Roth is cashing in as wind power projects pop up around the country, as skyrocketing oil and gas prices make wind power more competitive with traditional energy sources. This trend is sailing on a gust of government tax credits and policies that encourage companies to invest in the big turbines that produce the much needed electricity.

"I used to grow a lot of corn to fill my silos. I'm getting old enough, 67, and thought I should maybe think about not running the plough in the ground," the leather-skinned farmer said as he peered up at the 23 acres of land that lie above his farm on Maryland's highest point, known as Roth's Ridge.

Wind power offers income to land owners willing to lease their property to hold giant turbines. This growing industry offers the promise of an alternative long-term energy supply at stable prices, increased taxed revenue for many of the nation's rural communities and jobs to support manufacturing and growing technology.

In Pennsylvania, new factories to support the state's wind energy programme have added hundreds of jobs. Gamesa, of Spain, the world's No2 wind turbine maker, has invested pounds 21 million in a plant in Pennsylvania and plans to put in millions more.

Pennsylvania's Governor Edward Rendell has unveiled plans for doubling the amount of green electricity from sources such as wind energy to 20 per cent from ten per cent of the state's total electricity supply. Total installed wind power plants in the US now exceed 10,000 megawatts and produce enough electricity on a typical day to power more than 2.5 million homes. This is about 0.6 per cent of total US electricity supply.

It's more than just an alternative source of power.

"Wind energy's contribution to the economy is stronger than it appears because it is not just a source of energy, but a clean source of energy," said Christine Real de Azua of the American Wind Energy Association.

Likewise, this year's investment of more than pounds 2.1 billion will contribute to capital formation. There are few negatives because there is no depletion of resources such as natural gas or water for electricity generation.

While wind energy is popular in parts of Europe, supplying 20 per cent of the power for Denmark, but the US is far behind. However, President George Bush - faced with a nation consuming more energy even as prices climb -says he hopes to see renewable energy sources like wind supply about a fifth of the country's power in the future.

But regulatory hurdles and environmental concerns have delayed development of many wind energy projects in Maryland and other states, even though wind power supporters argue that it is a source of energy that is less disruptive to the environment than most.

"The footprint they leave is so small," Furqan Siddiqi, vice president of Annapolis, Maryland-based Synergics Wind Energy, said of the turbines as he peeked over the top of Roth's Ridge at smoke billowing out of the Mount Storm coal-fired power plant. …