Duke continues wind-power investment

Duke Energy Corp. has continued its investment into wind-powered energy, announcing plans today to build a windmill farm in Wyoming that would sell power to a West Coast utility.

Charlotte-based Duke said it has a 20-year-contract to sell 99 megawatts to PacifiCorp, a Portland, Oregon-based utility that serves customers in six Western states. The wholesale power operation would be unregulated. Duke also announced the purchase of 100 wind turbines from General Electric to produce 150 megawatts at various U.S. sites.

Duke has made several investments recently to make money from wind. It's an outgrowth of the national push to increase renewable energy use and reduce future emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal. The gas is blamed as a cause of global warming.

Once pie in the sky, wind power has become profitable through technology. Through several acquisitions, Duke is becoming an industry expert and player.

Over the summer, Duke announced the purchase of Vermont-based wind company Catamount Energy Corp. The $240 million acquisition increased Duke's wind presence to the equivalent of a medium-sized power plant. The purchase also gave Duke a 50 percent stake in the Sweetwater project in Nolan County, Texas – one of the largest wind farms in the world.

Windmills are largely nonexistent in North Carolina because of regulations that prohibit them from being built on N.C. mountain ridgelines, considered prime locations to catch the best and most consistent wind. The energy producers could operate effectively at coastal locations, if local objections could be overcome.