More power blowing in the wind in Colorado

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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) More electricity is being generated from wind just as wind power in Colorado is being sold at a premium.

This summer the Ponnequin Wind Facility is adding 15 turbines at its site in northern Colorado, and two more wind farms are planned.

A wind farm near Peetz, in northeast Colorado, should be generating electricity by the end of this year, and another near Lamar will follow before 2002.

At Xcel Energy, about 1,000 Coloradans are on a waiting list to pay extra to receive wind-produced the electricity. The surcharge is $2.50 per 100 kilowatt hours of wind power, or about $15 more a month for an average house using 600 kilowatt hours.

''It is an environmental ethic for people who want to make a difference,'' said Xcel spokeswoman Michelle Edwards.

More than 14,000 of Xcel's 1.6 million customers statewide subscribe to power from Colorado's only wind farm, situated on almost 1,400 acres in Weld County, abutting the Wyoming state line.

Many more customers still rely on electricity generated by conventional sources such as coal and natural gas, said spokesman Steven Roalstad.

The wind farm has 29 turbines and is growing to 44 turbines, each with 75-foot blades atop 73-ton towers that stand 290 feet high.

Computers adjust the blades to face the wind and shut the turbines down when winds go above 56 mph, so the turbines will not be damaged.

The fiberglass blades rotate at a constant speed of either 18 or 27 revolutions per minute.

The turbines are monitored from Xcel's control center in metro Denver, which dispatches maintenance crews as needed.

New construction at the Ponnequin wind farm will add 10 megawatts of power production to the 20 megawatts already being generated.

The first 29 turbines went in incrementally at a cost of $29 million, Edwards said. The 15 new turbines will cost about $15 million more when they begin operation in August.

The farm is much smaller than one being planned in the Northwest, where 450 towers could soon straddle the Oregon-Washington line.

Technology for the wind farm comes from Denmark, where the government has supported manufacturers who can harness the power of wind roaring off the North Sea, said Thomas Arensbach, a Dane who is project manager for Vestas American Wind Technology Inc.

Arensbach said the emptiness of the plains is ideal for generating electricity from wind power.

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