Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tilting at Windmills

I'm proud to announce that the Williams Delaney Lethbridge household is now powered entirely by wind. This will come as little surprise to those of you better acquainted with my husband. In fact, you may be wondering what took us so long. Ho ho!

OK, crap jokes aside, I'm feeling extremely smug because after an excellent morning's work, I've converted our house to run entirely on green energy generated by windmills. I'd like to tell you I've got my own one in the back garden, but actually it was easier and much cheaper, if more prosaic, than that.

I got the idea from an email I was sent last month encouraging me to go to www. and sign up, but I was leaving New York and ConEd isn't our supplier up here, and me being of little faith, I was convinced Pennsylvania wouldn't be enlightened enough to offer the option. Well, there I go again with my NY snobbery. After only an hour or so of the type of research I can't normally be bothered with, I was all signed up with the exact same supplier Con Ed uses in NYC, but by going direct to the source, even more cheaply (am becoming a real little Consumer Reports shopper out here. Next thing you know I'll be clipping coupons).

So basically I went to my electricity co (PPL)'s website and learned that since the eleccy industry was deregulated , you can now choose your supplier (you can't change the grid, just the energy source, I think). From there, like a good eco-geek, I clicked through various consumer reports until I figured out that my only green option was to sign up for wind power with
Community Energy.

It says on the website that they charge $2.50 per block of 100 kWh (you have to buy 2 minumum) and that you pay this direct to them on top of your usual eleccy bill. I found this a bit confusing so had to phone them for an explanation. The friendly bloke on the phone did his best. "You buy the power and we tip it into the grid you're connected to," he said. "What, so I'm paying but I don't know if the green stuff is coming to me?" I asked. "Well ma'am, we can't control the electrons, so no," he replied patiently. "Oh," I said, deflated. But then the light dawned. "It's a bit like when you buy those vouchers to offset your carbon emissions from a flight" - which I will do before I head to the UK next week- I said, deciding I quite liked the socialist feel of it all. He confirmed it was something along those lines.

The next step was to figure out how much eleccy we use a month so I'd know how much wind to purchase. I phoned PPL and apparently in the last 30 days we used 351 kWh (compared to a national household average of 500 kWh a month).

So I was going to round down to 300 and buy 3 blocks in anticipation of our reduced consumption, but then I figured that was like buying those size 8 trousers (that's a US size 4 people) before you've been on the diet, and you know damn well they'll be in the cupboard till they go to the charity shop unworn (not to mention being also terribly cheap), so I signed up for 4 blocks of wind, 400KwH, a month, at a total cost of $10. The online calculator let me know this would save 5266lbs of CO2 per month - equivalent, apparently to 4568 miles not driven or 358 trees not planted. Not bad for $10, eh? And really ridiculously easy - though I have to admit that if I was working at the moment, I would probably have given up before I got it all figured out. This being green is a full time job.

But now I've done the figuring out part for you, what's your excuse? Join me, friends! You can do the same thing in most US states (all on
the same site) . If you're in NYC, you can go through ConEd and get a $25 rebate, they waive the NY sales tax and they only charge an extra 2.5 cents per kWh (though I think it's cheaper still to go direct to Community Energy and cut out ConEd). If you do this, by the way, make sure you go for the 'wind only' option because they also offer a 'green power' option which is 60% hydropower and I heard on the radio yesterday they now think hydroelectric damns somehow cause methane to be released into the atmosphere which is even worse for the greenhouse effect than CO2 - bad! Oh, and in the UK you can do the same at

So join me and my windy spouse - if nothing else, it'll also give you endless opportunities to make truly appalling jokes. (and by the way, if you do, please would you let us know? Would be good to keep track of any +ve changes made as a result of this blog. One day I'll figure out how to have a running tally on the site - the opposite of naming and shaming. Also please share this tip with anyone and everyone you know. Think how much CO2 we could save.)

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At 3:30 PM , Anonymous Alexena said...

yes we do that too, buying blocks of green energy. Did you know consumption in the South East of the US is nearer 850kwh [per month! bloody crazy isnt it???? And most of the power is generated from that nice sustainable fuel - coal. Hence mountain top blasting in West Virginia. Lovely. I get very depressed about it sometimes and just want to curl up on a pvc mattress under an electric blanket wearing pyjamas from wal-mart and drink a bottle of whiskey. Then I read your blog and remember that I need to keep motivated for dot! Recommend you and any of your readers should watch Killowatt Ours....very good little documentary about becoming for energy-efficient and there's only one whack-job in it so it's actually good to show SUV-driving conservatives who don't believe in global warming too. sorry cycnicism slipping through....:) xx


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