Tiny utility is big on wind energy
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The town of Waverly, Iowa, was built on the promise of power – power provided by a wooden dam built on the Cedar River in the early 1850s. By 1880, the town's power supply had grown to include an operating steam electric plant. During the next century, the town's municipal utility, Waverly Light and Power, grew, but so did demand for electricity.
In 1991, the town faced an energy crisis and began looking for new power sources. WLP began investing in renewable energy by installing the first utility-scale wind turbine in Iowa. This program, which certain energy "experts" thought was not feasible, has helped lead the way for wind energy development across the Midwest and was awarded the 2002 Paul Rappaport Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Award.
NREL inaugurated the national award this year in celebration of the Laboratory's 25th anniversary. It is named for the Lab's pioneering first director and honors outstanding efforts to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
"Waverly Light and Power represents the very best of what the Rappaport Award is about," said NREL Director Richard Truly. "This may be a small utility, but it is one with a big supply of vision, innovation and courage."
Beginning with Waverly's groundbreaking wind program, Iowa to date has installed 350-wind turbines, producing more than 500 megawatts of electricity. Today, Iowa ranks third among the states, behind only California and Texas, in wind energy development.
"Wind energy is the right thing to do," said Waverly Light and Power General Manager Glenn Cannon. "We have a moral obligation to our energy future to look at all options, particularly our native resources. Wind is one of the cleanest and most abundant resources and it is also wildly popular with our customers and is highly supported by our community."
Waverly Light and Power also launched the Iowa Energy Tags Program in 2001, becoming the first electric utility in the nation to offer the increasingly popular "tags," which allow renewable energy to be substituted for traditional energy sources, reducing the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.
Each Iowa Energy Tag represents the environmental benefits of 2,500 kilowatt-hours of wind generation. The program is open to companies and individuals – in Iowa, around the nation and internationally. Funds received help pay for future wind generation equipment and development.
Waverly likewise has championed the cause of renewable energy and energy efficiency in forums around the country. Its representatives have spoken out for renewable energy before Congress and within utility industry trade groups.
"We are little, as utilities go, but we've proven that no matter how large a system you have, you still can do the right thing," Cannon said. "We have seen a lot of good come from our renewable energy efforts. They've allowed us to run an efficient, effective utility, and at the same time strengthen our rural economy and provide some substantial environmental benefits for us all."
NREL has been involved with this project since its inception. The first wind turbine that Waverly Light and Power installed used NREL-designed blades and researchers from the Lab have provided data for Waverly's wind energy feasibility studies.
"Glenn has been a good friend to us for a long time," said NREL researcher Brian Parsons.
Parsons was instrumental in helping Waverly Light and Power launch the Iowa Energy Tags Program in 2001.
Cannon accepted the award on behalf of the town and its utility at a ceremony July 18 commemorating NREL's 25th Anniversary.
Paul Rappaport was NREL's founding director – serving from April 1977 to August 1979. Before his appointment to NREL, Rappaport worked for more than 25 years at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Laboratories. A pioneer in his field, Rappaport made many contributions to the advancement of early solar photovoltaic technologies. He died in 1980.