BOWLING GREEN - Most people wouldn't jump at the chance to pay a higher electric bill, but in the city that's home to the state's first utility-grade wind farm, it's more common than you would think.
About 360 of Bowling Green's 13,600 electric customers pay an extra fee each month to support the production of renewable energy from sources like wind, landfill gas, hydroelectric, and solar.
Now, under a new program announced this week by the city, American Municipal Power-Ohio, and Green Mountain Energy Co., the city is hoping more residents choose that option.
"Since we have a big example of renewable energy right here in the county, we're hoping people want to support more of that," said Daryl Stockburger, city utilities director.
With the new "green pricing" program, the premium for Bowling Green customers who choose to support clean energy will decrease slightly from 1.35 cents per kilowatt hour to 1.3 cents - or $8 to $10 a month for an average residential customer. Commercial customers can purchase one-megawatt hour blocks for $13.
Four years ago, Bowling Green became the first city in Ohio to offer a green power option to its electric customers.
Donald Scherer, a professor emeritus of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, said he was among the first to sign up.
"I think it's extremely important to jump-start the commercial development of renewable energy," he said.
"It's clean, and it reduces our dependence on foreign sources of energy."
Although only about 3 percent of Bowling Green residents choose to pay the extra fee for green power, Mr. Scherer said he considers it a cause worth supporting.
"There are lots of things I give money to and so the real question is where those charity dollars are going to go and this seems like a very good thing," Mr. Scherer said.
"It really seems like a way to be good to future generations, to put society on a better track," he added.
Customers who sign up for the program do not get clean energy delivered directly to their home or business but in effect support increased production of renewable energy, said Kent Carson, spokesman for AMP-Ohio, a municipal utility co-op.
"On a larger scale, you're creating a market. You're making money available for the further development of renewable generation sources," Mr. Carson said.
"Like anything else, it's a supply and demand issue. If the demand is there then the response is to build more generation assets that are renewable," Mr. Carson said.
In Bowling Green, the green pricing program generates about $25,000 a year - money that is used to invest in renewable energy projects.
"We installed a small solar panel at Kenwood Elementary and then at Crim Elementary, and we began monitoring the wind to see what was feasible for wind power," Mr. Stockburger said. "Initially we thought we'd be looking mostly at solar but the testing turned out good with wind."
Since last year, Bowling Green has installed four massive wind turbines at the Wood County Landfill about six miles west of the city. When all four are operating, they can generate 7.2 megawatts of electricity or enough to power at least 1,560 homes.
Mr. Carson said Columbus-based AMP-Ohio began offering the green pricing program to all of its member electric utilities earlier this year, but so far Bowling Green is only the third to join.
Cuyahoga Falls in northeast Ohio participates as does Wyandotte, Mich., he said.
Green pricing programs are available throughout the country, although not all electric companies offer the option. Keith Hancock, spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., parent company of Toledo Edison, said FirstEnergy does not have a similar option for customers.
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