If you’re one of about 1.7 million people being served by a certain Minnesota cooperative, you can now wind-power your car for free. And no, you don’t need any cartoon-like fan whirring atop your car roof to make it happen. This is real.
All you need is a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) and an electrical outlet. Generation & Transmission cooperative Great River Energy (GRE) and its participating member co-ops this week launched Revolt, a first-of-its kind program that allows member customers to use wind-generated electricity to charge their vehicles at no additional cost.
Renewable sources are already part of Great River Energy’s power mix, but the Revolt program provides a more direct connection between wind energy and the electric vehicle driver. As a YouTube spot for the program put it, “to arrive at the future we all hope for, someone has to lead the way.”
Revolt may be the perfect name for the program. Aside from the electrical volt reference (not to mention the electric Chevy Volt car), you could say that participants in the program are staging a consumer revolt—against high gas prices, oil imports, you name it. David Ranallo, Senior Marketing Specialist and Revolt Program Manager with GRE, said that in offering the program, the co-op is being true to it’s mission and answering to its customer members.
In addition to customers being interested in the zero-emission environmental benefits, “We understand consumers are wanting to reduce their dependence on foreign oil, and this is a way to use a generation source that is locally produced…for their vehicle’s fuel,” he said.
Using wind energy to power cars is in the national interest in many respects, from security to trade. “It’s a lot more secure than bringing [fuel] from far-away, unstable places,” noted Michael Noble, Executive Director at St. Paul, Minn.-based advocacy group Fresh Energy. “Making electricity [and using it to power vehicles] here at home is better for our national security, better for our trade imbalance.” In addition, tapping the energy source here means job creation, he noted.
The use of domestically produced wind energy for cars can also make sense for your budget. Noble pointed out that wind-powered EVs shield consumers from the notorious price volatility of world oil markets. When gas spikes to $4 a gallon, the EV driver charging her car with wind energy may be paying the equivalent of 50 cents a gallon, particularly when factoring in GRE’s off-peak nighttime rates, Noble said. Wind energy has no fuel cost, so it is one of few energy sources for which utilities are able to lock in the energy price for decades.
For a utility, wind-powered EVs also mean a business opportunity. Utilities now have a new market for their product (electricity), and they’re providing it in a way that’s good for the environment, good for energy security, and good for the utility’s business.
From the utility and grid standpoint, the program makes good sense. Wind energy and electric vehicles are the perfect combination in many ways. Wind resources are often strong at night, when a high percentage of vehicles are parked, providing inexpensive electricity to charge cars.
Wind and the EV, therefore, is a match made in heaven. “They jive well together,” said Ranallo. “It’s like they’re made for each other.”