Monday, 14 Jan 2008
Turbines create energy at a wind farm in West Texas.
AUSTIN -- Austin residents now have the option to power their homes with energy from a renewable resource: wind.
Austin Energy announced Monday it has signed a new contract for a limited energy supply from a West Texas wind farm. Austin Energy is offering that wind energy as part of its GreenChoice program for customers. Officials say there is only enough power for the first 6000 residential customers to participate.
With the GreenChoice program, Austin Energy takes the 3.65 cent per kilowatt-hour fuel charge off customer electric bills, and replaces it with a more expensive green fuel charge. But Austin Energy says that 5.5 cent per kilowatt-hour green charge stays fixed for 15 years, while the fuel charge can increase.
Austin Energy estimates the average residential customer will spend about $18.50 more monthly for GreenChoice power, but say down the line it could save them thousands of dollars.
But Austin Energy says the biggest incentive for choosing the GreenChoice program is not saving money, it is about saving the environment.
"Wind generated power has no emissions, and wind is free," says Austin Energy spokesman, Ed Clark.
The GreenChoice program is not new to Austin. Austin Energy offered it in 2001 when they first signed a contract with the same West Texas wind farm. Since wind energy is still a developing technology and is limited, the allocated wind energy had been sold out.
One customer already on the GreenChoice program says it saves him money. Brian Berry works for Drake Enterprises, the company that runs Maudie’s Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin. Four out of the five Maudie's restaurants are on the GreenChoice program.
"When you sign up, you hope that down the road you'll gain financially as the price increases," Berry says. "That's been the case for us in the past couple of years."
Berry adds that saving money is not the company's only reward.
"We liked the fact that we were getting our energy from a renewable source, and the positive implications for the environment," Berry says. "We feel that it's a community responsibility, especially in a community such as Austin."
Since space in the program is limited, Austin Energy urges customers to sign up online soon. They say once this batch of wind energy runs out, the next one may be at a higher rate.
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