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Price of Wind-Generated Power Plummeting

Environmental advocates say the price of wind-generated electricity is plummeting, making the alternative energy source more viable in the commercial market.

Officials from the Earth Policy Institute say the price of electricity generated at wind farms has been falling since the farms first appeared two decades ago.

Institute President Lester Brown said the cost for each kilowatt hour of wind-generated electricity has fallen from 38 cents in the early 1980s to between three and six cents in 2004.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports the average American paid about $ .075 per kilowatt hour for conventional electricity in 2004.

Brown says that comparison makes wind a viable alternative for millions of people.

"Wind has come of age," he said. "And wind can now go toe-to-toe with any of the fossil fuels in competing for markets."

Past Energy Department studies have concluded wind harvested in just three of the 50 American states could provide enough electricity to power the entire country, and that offshore wind farms could do the same job.

Brown said the push for wind power is increasing, and that several states already have laws calling for businesses to draw a small percentage of their power from renewable sources. But he said the laws vary from state to state, causing difficulty for manufacturers. Brown says government regulation could help the push.

"The federal government could help by establishing at least a modest portfolio standard, then the entire country could work toward that," he added.

Brown said the growing interest in wind power has the potential to bring fundamental change to the U.S. power industry.

"I think if we want to make wind the centerpiece of a new energy economy, including powering cars and generating electricity, I think it has the potential to totally dominate the U.S. energy economy," he explained.

Brown added that an increased reliance on wind power could lessen U.S. dependency on foreign oil, while having less impact on the environment than fossil fuel power sources.