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Wind Power Pioneer Interview: Glenn Cannon, Waverly Light and Power

Glenn Cannon

Glenn Cannon, general manager, Waverly Light and Power, Waverly, Iowa (PIX11923)

Wind Power Pioneer Interview: Glenn Cannon, Waverly Light and Power

Date: 4/1/2003

Location: Waverly, IA

"Glenn Cannon has been the guiding force behind Waverly Light and Power, which helped to lead the way for wind energy development across the Midwest. In 1993, Waverly installed the first utility-scale wind turbine in Iowa. Since then, Iowa has installed approximately 350 wind turbines and is ranked third in the nation for wind energy development. Also under Glenn's guidance, Waverly Light and Power launched the Iowa Energy Tags Program in 2001, becoming the first electric utility in the nation to offer "green tags." In 2002, Glenn accepted the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Paul Rappaport Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Award on behalf of the town and its utility." — Brian Parsons, National Wind Technology Center.

Tell us a little about Waverly Light and Power.

A. Waverly Light and Power is a municipal electric utility owned by the city of Waverly, a community of about 9,000 people in northeastern Iowa. We provide service to about 4,300 meters in a 33 square-mile service territory. Our system peak is about 27.5 MW.

Q. Why did Waverly get into the wind business?

A. During the late 1980s, Waverly's energy demand grew at a rate of 4.2% per year, almost twice the national average. In 1991, we faced the termination of our purchased power contract, as well as the steady growth in demand. Waverly Light and Power became increasingly concerned about future energy supplies.

A study was performed by an independent utility consultant to evaluate options for conserving energy and generating it from renewable sources. The study showed wind to be a viable resource in Iowa.

In 1993, after receiving grants from the American Public Power Association (APPA), we became the first public power system in the Midwest to own and operate wind generation.

Q. What has been the response by the community to the Waverly Light and Power wind turbines?

A. We have overwhelming support from our community, our board of trustees, and our employees.

Q. Waverly Light and Power rate-based the wind energy-why? What issues were addressed when making that decision?

A. We have a long history of renewable energy. Waverly has been operating hydro units since the utility began in 1904, and the addition of wind energy is just one more addition to the diversified mix of generation resources. We look at not only the initial cost of generation resources but also the long-term impact on the environment when we make our decisions.

Q. Waverly Light and Power has expanded its wind program. Any plans for future expansion?

A. Today Waverly gets 5% of its system energy requirements from wind energy, and that's only about half of where we want to be. We don't have a formal date for accomplishing this, but we constantly evaluate our options and look for opportunities to add to our resource mix.

Q. A number of municipal utilities in Iowa now implement wind energy. What issues do these utilities face in implementing wind?

A. The biggest problem for Iowa municipal utilities is probably transmission constraints. The other issues are the size of the utilities and economics-what I would call impediments from purchase power contracts. In Iowa, we usually enjoy strong support from customers and farmers in areas where turbines are located. We don't have avian issues. Wind is viewed as a natural resource for electricity in a state that doesn't really have native electricity resources, and it's welcome.

Q. How important are the Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI) and tradable tax credits to increasing the level of wind development on municipal utility land?

A. The REPI and tradable tax credits are critically important right now. We're working very hard to get extensions to REPI for wind and all renewable resources. We're also strongly in favor of the tradable tax credits that are presently being supported by the Iowa Congressional delegation.

Q. How can Wind Powering America help to get more municipal utilities to implement wind?

A. We need a non-stop education effort and support for REPI tradable tax credits.

Q. Can you tell us about Waverly Light and Power's green tags program? What's your vision for the future of the green tags market?

A. Waverly Light and Power implemented an Iowa Energy tags program. Under this program, a consumer can purchase an Iowa Energy Tag for $50. Each tax-deductible tag represents 2,500 kWh of wind energy generation. The Tags offer consumers the opportunity to buy and promote wind power, which offsets the use of fossil fuels and allows more wind generation to be added. It is a way to avoid transmission issues and costs.

I think green tags are a tremendous concept. We expect to see growth in green tags across the country.

Q. Anything else you'd like to add?

A. I would like to say that our wind energy program would not have been possible without the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, Wind Powering America, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), American Public Power Association (APPA), the Utility Wind Interest Group (UWIG), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Global Energy Concepts, Iowa Renewable Energy Association, Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), our consultant Tom Wind, and all the other folks who support wind energy. NREL was there every step of the way, and Brian Parsons (of NREL) gave us the idea for green tags.

Also, WAPA has recently agreed to help fund a DVD version of our "Crop of the Future" video (for more information, contact Kelly Vowels at 319-352-6251.

Finally, during a time when we seem to be very focused on our national energy policy, I really hope that Washington will continue and improve the level of support for NREL and wind energy programs.

More Information

American Public Power Association. (November 3, 2003). "Public Power Leader Wins National Award for Wind Power Initiatives."

Holmes Barba, S. and Schmitz, G. (December 2002). "Tiny Utility Is Big On Wind Energy." Inside NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 4.

This information was last updated on August 02, 2011