Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, refers to the free potential of wind-energy as “the magic of wind” because it can “power a cleaner, stronger, America.” As this year’s presenter for the 18th annual Wege Foundation Speaker Series, Kiernan happily announced that wind-powered energy has increased ten-fold over the past decade
Today 4.4% of the USA’s electricity supplying the equivalent of 15 million homes comes from Mother Nature’s free, clean wind. By 2030, wind power is expected to account for 20% of this nation’s electricity. The state of Michigan is now the 16th biggest provider of wind energy in the country having tripled its capacity in the past two years.
Kiernan called wind energy a “perfect example of economicology,” Peter Wege’s term for finding a balance between the ecology and the economy. The for-profit electric companies using Shelley’s “wild spirit” now employ 80,000 people in 550 plants – 40 in Michigan – across the country. While Europe was the world’s early leader in wind energy, the USA has moved ahead with 900 wind farms now and 100 more under construction.
A wind farm typically consists of 50 turbines that have increased in height since the 1980s from 20 meters to 100 meters, the three spinning blades 100 meters long. At the same time, the per-kilowatt cost of electricity powered by wind has decreased 90% since 2000.
Kiernan, the former President of the National Parks Conservation Association, advocated for federal tax credits that triggered the growth spurt in wind energy. He urged the audience to vote this year for candidates who will support increasing wind energy by renewing tax credits.
In stressing the importance of clean energy, Kiernan told his audience in Aquinas’s PAC that “the future of the planet, life, and wildlife depends on what we do in the next ten years.”
The March 18, 2008, New York Times titled a major news article in the business section, “Corporate Sponsorship for a Wind Farm.” The corporation covered in this national and international news story is Steelcase Inc., the company Peter Martin Wege founded in 1912 as Metal Office Furniture. But the story gets even better.
Because Steelcase has committed to buying all the renewable energy credits that will be produced by this huge wind farm under construction in Texas, the Grand Rapids corporation gets naming rights to the farm. Such an opportunity for the office-furniture maker to promote itself by calling it the Steelcase Wind Farm would seem irresistible. Certainly after that such a big investment, most corporations would not consider doing otherwise. “Green” sells these days so the marketing possibilities are stunning.
But Steelcase did not blink. With everything to lose in advertising and nothing to gain financially by honoring one low-profile individual, Steelcase chose to pay tribute to the man whose environmental vision has influenced corporate policy for half a century. The eight wind-tower turbines going up on a new wind farm in Panhandle, Texas, will be known as the Wege Wind Farm, named for the retired Steelcase executive and head of The Wege Foundation, Peter Martin’s son Peter M. Wege.
Working in collaboration with John Deere & Co. building the windmills, Steelcase will be able to use the clean energy produced by the Wege Wind Farm to offset 20% of its carbon footprint (amount of carbondioxide/greenhouse gas they emit) in Steecase facilities across the United States. The expected 35,000-megawatt hours of electricity generated by the Wege Wind Farm each year is enough to operate 2,925 homes and three times more than needed to run Steelcase’s global headquarters in Grand Rapids.
Steelcase is now a national role model for committing to buying RECS before the Wege Wind Farm is built. If other corporations similarly sign up to purchase the clean energy during the planning stage of renewal power facilities, they, like Steelcase, will ensure those green producers of energy get built.