New TerraPass project: Blue Canyon Wind Farm

Blue Canyon Wind Farm

TerraPass members now support 9% of this wind farm in Oklahama. Wild Elk rally in the foreground to support low-carbon energy sources.

TerraPass experienced dramatic growth last year. This Friday we crossed another milestone: 40,000 people carry some form of a TerraPass. With all that demand, we’ve been looking for new projects to support. The latest is a good example of the benefits of rural wind power in the heartland of America – The Blue Canyon Wind Farm in Oklahoma.

(Check out these nifty satellite pics.)

Our first purchase is more than 17,000 megawatt-hours, or 9% of total capacity. That means that of the 45 turbines, 4 of them turn just for TerraPass members. As part of the Western Farmer’s Electric Cooperative WindWorks program, TerraPass members will join customers of 19 separate cooperative utility programs in supporting the wind farm. The program was named a top-ten Green Power Program in March ’06 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Project Details

  • 72 MW capacity wind farm in Anadarko, OK
  • 45 1.6MW turbines from NEG Micon
  • Online Dec 2004

Certification

  • Purchase of 17,075 MWH Green-e certified RECs
  • Displacement claim based on 1937 lbs CO2/MWh, 15,000 metric tons CO2 total
  • Meets all additionality criteria of Green-e.
  • Co-benefits include over 100 construction jobs, grazing on ranch land, and wild elk habitat

For photo lovers, see some pics here. I’ve also made some desktop images of the farm (1920 x 1440, 1024 x 768, 800 x 600), complete with roaming elk. Let me know if you like them and we’ll get some better quality images for your desktop viewing.

Author Bio

tom

Comments Disabled

  1. MarkS - February 26, 2007

    Time for an education – Would you explain why Terrapass would choose to invest in an existing wind farm, rather than invest in one that needs capital to get started? It strikes me that rather than creating more renewable energy, you’re simply stepping in so someone else can get out, with no incremental clean energy created.

  2. Tom Arnold - February 26, 2007

    Hi Mark:
    There are four main reasons:
    1) We want to guarantee that your reductions actually were acheived in 2006. That requires a windmill spinning, not a plan to erect a windmill and front-load credits over the next 20 years. We’re still small, and that means we don’t have enough demand to take a whole windfarm (although at 10% of blue canyon and our growth rate, this is not that far away).
    2) There is an established (albeit wholesale) market for these instruments. So buy making these big purchases, we show the market that new purchasers like TerraPass (and WholeFoods, Wells Fargo, J&J, Safeway, etc, etc etc) will help support wind farms with voluntary purchases.
    3) The claim we make based on this purchase is fully recognized by leading environmental groups like CRS and NRDC as an effective way to fight global warming.
    4) In both US and Intl carbon regimes. the timing of the project purchases and the “additionality” aspects of offset project are generally considered distinct. That is, a good project can generate credits that anybody can use at any time. If the reverse were true, we would have a highly fragmented and less efficient marketplace.

  3. dangerouspenguin - February 26, 2007

    Can you help me to understand something? I recently attended a seminar on geo-engineering to mitigate climate change. The presenter claimed that wind harvesting might cause more damage than good because energy is being removed from a vital planetary system. He made vague reference to some peer-reviewed literature that supports his position, but I have not been able to find it. Are you aware of this concern and, if so, is it credible? I can understand that large farms do require vast energy transfer, but (intuitively) it would seem like a drop in the bucket of wind energy out there.

  4. Aaron A. - February 26, 2007

    The presenter claimed that wind harvesting might cause more damage than good because energy is being removed from a vital planetary system… I can understand that large farms do require vast energy transfer, but (intuitively) it would seem like a drop in the bucket of wind energy out there.

    I don’t get that either. It’s true that the windmills obstruct/deflect wind, but it’s at ground level; I can’t see how a 30-foot windmill would disrupt Earth’s major air currents any more than an office building would.

  5. David Katz - February 26, 2007

    I am appalled at Tom’s response. He is basically saying it is ok for TerraPass to invest in a scheme where the investment will do nothing to prevent even one gram of new CO2 being released into the atmosphere. This wind project has been underway for years and was completed without a bit of help from TerraPass, and the electricity will be produced & sold whether TerraPass invests or not.
    Tom’s rationale for this project is very weak. The fact that there is a market for these instruments, that enviro groups say that this is effective way to fight global warming, and that the timing of the purchases are sanctioned by the players in the carbon market are basically all irrelevant. Each of these points are highly debatable and miss the main point.
    How are we going to do something really effective about global warming if current attempts, such as TerraPass’s efforts to offset CO2 emissions through very questionable purchases such as this wind farm, in fact do nothing and are supported by arguments like the points above? It is a house of cards that will crumble and greatly impact the credibility of valid carbon sequestration and offset projects. This credibility issue is a key element in the foundation of the carbon movement. We should clean up our act before the regulators or public opinion does it for us. TerrPass’s board should set policy on this to avoid this type of deal in the future.

  6. Anonymous - February 26, 2007

    Wild elk habitat? Under a wind turbine? Your elks must be less sensitive than our Canadian ones.

  7. Tom - February 26, 2007

    David:

    Purchasing Green-e RECs is a widely accepted strategy by environmental leaders to reduce CO2. In fact, according to NREL, the voluntary market of Green-e RECs supported by companies like TerraPass and others has translated to over 2300 MW of *new* wind capacity being installed. That is serious progress on an important clean energy source.

    Just to clarify, let me reiterate some points for the TerraPass community.

    1) We believe in a market based approach. It’s going to take more than a few projects to fight climate change. Showing project developers that there is a market for Voluntary Emissions Reductions (VERs) is one of our key goals. The more that demand is expected, the more clean energy projects will get the green light. Thats why we buy in the marketplace.

    2) Our reductions are acheived reductions. We don’t make any promises in the future. These are real, verified, permanent, and additional reductions. You need an operating wind farm to do that.

    3) We take input from the environmental community very seriously. We run a quarterly road show with all the big groups and seek their feedback on our strategy. Is their disagreement? Sure. But Green-e RECs remain the preferred vehicle for many groups. That endorsement is very important for industry credibility.

    4) We set our own strategy, but in the context of standards. We’ve been telling our audience about the importance of stakeholder based standards, like the initiative at The Center for Resource Solutions. These are critical for determining a stakeholder based view of offset strategies. We will be first in line to adopt the new standards, even if it means adjusting our portfolio.

  8. Aaron A. - February 27, 2007

    Looking at some of the comments, I think there might be some confusion as to how TerraPass uses RECs to decrease emissions.

  9. Aaron A. - February 27, 2007

    [Sorry, hit the wrong button.]

    Looking at some of the comments, I think there might be some confusion as to how TerraPass uses RECs to decrease emissions. Now I don’t work for TerraPass, and I don’t know that much about science, so correct me if I’m wrong here, but here’s my thirty-second explanation:

    When renewable energy is generated, producers receive Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which they can then sell on the open market. Whoever purchases those credits essentially has the right to produce a certain amount of pollution. Since we (members) paid TerraPass to not sell that credit, they stab the credit with a wooden stake, bury it in a concrete bunker 200 feet below ground, and line the bunker with garlic to keep that credit from ever coming back. Thus, nobody buys the credit, so they don’t get to pollute, and we have measurable, verifiable reductions.

    Since the ultimate mechanism for reducing emissions is disposing of RECs, it doesn’t matter if the wind power is generated from new capacity or existing capacity. If TerraPass bought out an investor who would have sold the credits, then we still receive the stated reductions. Ultimately, I would like to see TerraPass helping to expand the world’s wind capacity, and it sounds like the idea has at least crossed Tom’s mind, but that’s rather ambitious for a company this size; 90% of the cost of a windmill is just getting it built.

  10. Chad - February 28, 2007

    David Katz: I disagree. No one puts up a utility-scale windmill without planning for the ability to sell green energy/carbon credits. Your claim that the windfarm was already built is meaningless – it is like saying because Toyota already built my car before I bought it, my decision to buy the car has no impact on what they build. On the contrary, both Toyota and its competitors noted the increase in demand for cars like mine, and adjusted their future plans accordingly.
    Terrapass users buyin credits from this farm will cause either this farm to expand, other farms to appear or expand, or a combination of the two, in nearly perfect proportion to the credits we buy.

  11. MarkS - March 1, 2007

    Ok, so between Tom’s, Aron’s, and Chad’s comments, I think I’m beginning to understand this a bit. Assuming those credits disappear, then polluters are forced to either pay more to pollute (making it less viable, eventually), or have to create more sustainable energy generation.
    But what is the end game? If we take this a step further, and assume that another wind farm is built, more green energy is created. But with more energy available, energy prices decline, and thus, it’s easier to use more energy overall. Does our overall energy consumption actually decline? Moreover, I’m not clear on how the polluter ends up shifting to non-polluting activities? Can a market-baed solution really make the credits so expensive that polluters have to change their habits? And is this really a market based system? TerraPass is effectively an artificial demand component, not a real demand for sustainable energy.

  12. Adam Stein - March 1, 2007

    Hi Mark,
    It’s not that uncommon to hear the suggestion that by putting more green energy on the grid, offsets decrease energy prices, which will just end up stimulating consumption. But this argument falls down for a few reasons. The first is that energy demand isn’t all that elastic. That is, people don’t change their consumption habits very much based on small changes in price. Beyond that, offsets don’t really alter the price of energy — they just make renewable energy cost-competitive with coal. So the supply mix is altered, but not the end price to consumers.
    Regarding whether a market-based solution can make carbon so expensive that polluters will be forced to make changes — absolutely. Similar pollution markets worked amazingly well in reducing sulfur dioxide emissions in the early ’90s.
    But there is a very real question about whether the political will in the country exists to set carbon prices high enough to bring about the necessary change. It will be an interesting few years.

  13. MarkS - March 5, 2007

    Adam,
    Your response makes sense. The sulfur dioxide efforts in the 90′s were before my time – I tend to think of the gaffs we’re reading about now in the European trading markets where the supply of carbon offsets were so large, they turned out to be very inexpensive and not really that effective. But I suppose it will take time to figure out the balance in this nascent market.

  14. richard schumacher - March 7, 2007

    MarkS, the goal is not to use less energy: it’s to emit less fossil-derived CO2. Consider the problem globally. In the coming century Earth’s population will rise to about nine billion. In order to support everyone at a Western standard of living, even at the European standard of energy efficiency world energy consumption must increase by a factor of at least four. Economic justice and environmental responsibility together *require* the world to use more energy but to do it cleanly and sustainably.

  15. James - March 7, 2007

    I am delighted that TerraPass is investing in clean energies and that my contributions are being invested soundly. Thank you all for your work in cleaning up our planet and in helping us all return to a more harmonious lifestyle.

  16. Randy Hanks - June 22, 2007

    Can anyone give me info on tree farm planting as an option to help save OUR planet? I farm and have 50 acres, minimum, I would like to plant trees on. I feel this is a viable option to reduce CO2 emissions, locally as well as worldwide. Are there gov’t funds or investment groups interested in this and how would I start a company to begin this process? I would like to
    contibute environmentally as well as provide income to sustain my family versus farming the land as a production operation. I will continue to farm the majority of land but am interested in this option. Please respond. Thank you

  17. Adam Stein - June 22, 2007

    Hi Randy,
    TerraPass doesn’t include tree-planting projects in our portfolio, so we’re not the best guide on this issue. The EPA web site is a good place to start, and you may also want to reach out to some of the organizations that do tree-planting projects.
    http://www.epa.gov/sequestration/faq.html

  18. Russ - April 15, 2008

    Arguments for offsets are weak, period. Tom Arnold stated in his response above that, “We want to guarantee that your reductions actually were acheived in 2006. That requires a windmill spinning, not a plan to erect a windmill and front-load credits over the next 20 years.” The only way that offsets work and are realized is for power companies fired by carbon-based fuels to turn back and reduce the power they are producing by the amount of offsets being sold, and this is not happening and won’t be. I was told by someone at terrapass that the real argument and hope for offsets is that they will prevent the need for additional carbon-based power plants to be built. That may be true, but when you factor in the use of hydroelectric and nuclear power, it becomes even more difficult to measure the benefit and return.

  19. Kevin - June 9, 2008

    Am I missing something here? In a free market capitalist system this type of activity would be called an investment. An entrepreneur would make a proposal and I would decide to invest in his/her plan with the hope of a return for my investment. Why would I give your organization money so you can produce a product (electricity) to sell at a profit and I get nothing in return? It sounds like a scam to me. I

  20. Adam Stein - June 9, 2008

    Yep, you’re missing that these projects are typically not cost-competitive with dirty sources of energy such as coal. The offset revenue stream, along with revenue streams from electricity production, help to make these project commercially viable.

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