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Green power's potential

WIND POWER

What does it do?
Wind spins rotor blades, which turn a generator to produce electricity. The largest turbines produce up to 1.8 megawatts of electricity, enough power for up to 700 average homes.

Outlook:
Wind is a free, renewable source of power that does not emit any pollutants, but some days are calm with no wind. Most installations in the U.S. are on land, but two off-shore projects are planned in New York and Massachusetts. The optimistic outlook is wind could provide 6 percent of the nation's electricity by 2020.

Quick Fact:
More than 2,000 megawatts of wind power - enough to serve more than 600,000 average American homes - were installed in the United States in the past two years.

What's Ohio doing?
Ohio's only wind farm sits in Bowling Green, where four commercial-size wind turbines generate electricity for 2,000 homes. Spanish wind company Gamesa Corp. is considering building as may as 25 wind turbines on farmland in Bellefontaine, an hour northwest of Columbus.

For more information
www.awea.org
www.nrel.gov/
www.windpower.org/en/core.htm

SOLAR

What does it do?
Solar cells use silicon semiconductors to convert sunlight to electricity. Solar power represents less than 1 percent of the energy consumed in the United States today.

Outlook
The sun rises every day and is a free source of energy, but some days are cloudy. California is considering legislation that would put solar panels on the roofs of 1 million homes and businesses by 2018. Tax breaks and incentives are spurring solar growth in more than 30 states.

Quick Fact:
The industry saw a 40 percent growth rate last year driven primarily by booming markets in Japan and Germany.

What's Ohio doing?
The state's largest solar installation is on the Adam Joseph Lewis Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College, which opened in 1999. Several similar-sized solar projects are planned in Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. First Solar LLC in Perrysburg, which manufactures thin-film solar panels, will triple its production in the next two years. Its biggest customer is Germany, which is closing down its nuclear power plants.

For more information:
www.seia.org
www.solarelectricpower.org/
www.eere.energy.gov

HYDROELECTRICITY

What does it do?
Dams create slow- moving bodies of water. The dams then release water and the force of the water spins a generator, creating electricity that's sent into traditional power lines. Smaller, micro-hydroelectric systems use streams and rivers to power homes.

Outlook:
Hydro is a reusable power source with no hazardous byproducts. But few prime locations remain in the United States for hydropower because they have been used or are off limits for environmental reasons. Hydroelectric projects can hurt the environment by blocking or altering fish migrations and displacing residents through flooding.

Quick Fact:
A micro-hydro system that powers two dozen homes and some businesses requires a nearby steam or creek and costs about $20,000 or more.

What's Ohio doing?
Metro Hydroelectric Co. in Fairlawn is considering using the 58-foot-high Gorge Park dam on the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Falls to generate electricity for about 1,200 homes. Columbus maintains the O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Scioto River.

For more information:
Greenenergyohio.org
Hydro.org
eere.energy.gov/RE/hydropower.html

BIOFUEL

What does it do?
Biofuels use corn, soybeans, spent cooking greases and other organic matter to create fuel or additives for fuel. Starch from such products as corn and soybeans is converted to sugar to create ethanol. Vegetable oil and grease can also be used to create biodiesel.

Outlook:
Cars already rely on gas- ethanol blends. About half of the gas in Ohio contains up to 10 percent ethanol. Minnesota and Iowa lead the nation with the most pumps that sell a blend of 85 percent ethanol and gasoline.

Quick Fact:
Biochemistry breakthroughs will help produce ethanol from grass and use bacteria to create natural gas.

What's Ohio doing?
Medina's Liquid Resources for Ohio is building an ethanol plant that will make 7 million gallons of ethanol a year, using expired beer and soda. Greater Ohio Ethanol LLC is building a plant in Lima that will make 60 million gallons yearly. Ohio has nine gas stations that sell bio-diesel and one station that sells an 85 percent mix. The first bio-diesel gas station in Northeast Ohio is to open Aug. 12.

For more information:
Liquidresources.net
Ethanol.org
Biodiesel.org

BIOMASS

What does it do?
Organic matter including wood, algae, sewage and agricultural waste is burned - sometimes through a chemical process - to produce heat comparable to the energy created by fossil fuels.

Outlook:
Landfills already harness methane gas for energy, and paper mills take leftovers from trees to produce energy. However, removing plants and trees for biomass fuel is detrimental to the environment. Also, the current return on investment of biomass is low, making it an unattractive investment. Biomass accounts for 1.5 percent of the U.S. energy supply.

Quick Fact:
Federal legislation would provide financial incentives to increase biomass energy production.

What's Ohio doing?
Bio-Gas Technologies Ltd. in Norwalk builds biomass-based power plants that use landfill gases and other materials. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio sponsors the Ohio Biomass Energy Program to promote biomass fuels.

For more information:
Eere.energy.gov/biomass/
Biogastech.com
Biomass.org
Repp.org/bioenergy

Sources: Green Energy Ohio, Intermediate Technology Development Group, Canadian Renewable Energy Network, U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Case Western Reserve University, U.S. Department of Energy, Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, Renewable Energy Policy Project.

© 2005 The Plain Dealer
© 2005 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

Editorial Notes: The Cleveland Plain Dealer is doing an exemplary job of explaining energy issues to the public, and doing it with a local slant. (If there's one thing we know about a low-energy future, it's that it will be local.) Previous stories in their series "Crude Awakening" are available through the series archive. Many of these articles have been archived on Energy Bulletin. -BA

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