Wind Industry Wants a Long-term Commitment

On Grandpa's Knob in Vermont, wind power was stymied in 1941by a number of shortages. In 2010, those equipment and material shortages have been replaced by the lack of consistent support from government.

Specifically, presenters at the American Wind Energy Association's WindPower Conference and Exhibition in Dallas this week seemed anxious that their industry would not grow without tax or other financial incentives and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) to develop demand and push production.

During the opening session Monday, Denise Bode, chief executive officer of AWEA, noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped expand the industry by 39 percent in 2009, but wind stakeholders are looking for a long-term commitment, not unlike the deep, permanent tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry.

Cathy Zoi, assistant secretary of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, told conference attendees that DOE spent more than $3 billion on wind, including direct payment and tax credits. The agency's research and development has shown that offshore wind farms will provide the "greatest opportunity" to help reach production goals, she said.

Cape Wind , which has been in development for 10 years, will be the nation's first offshore wind farm. (The project needs only to provide funds to the Federal Aviation Administration to help upgrade the radar facility at Otis Air Force Base.) Zoi remarked that the next generation wind power blades should be made so that they don't interfere with radar.

Bode presented Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who is chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee but is not seeking re-election this year, an award for his legislative support. Dorgan and Sen. George Voinovich (D-Ohio) last year introduced the National Energy Security Act, which contains an RES of 15 percent, but Dorgan said he plans to amend the bill to raise the standard to 20 percent when it comes up for a vote this summer. Dorgan said the industry also needs the government to develop a modern transmission system and offer tax incentives that will extend construction beyond certain dates.

Finally, three governors explained what they were doing to entice wind industry projects and bring jobs to their states. Gov. Chet Culver of Iowa, Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado and Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio are all members of the Governors Wind Energy Coalition. The coalition, which includes more than 25 states and provides "lessons" from state experience, supports a national RES standard, a national transmission system, and a streamlined permitting and siting process for wind farms.

When told that Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill (SB 1267) that would raise taxes for zero emission power plants, both Govs. Culver and Ritter said that such a law was not an issue in their states. Gov. Strickland noted that an interpretation of a personal property tax law made Ohio noncompetitive to the wind industry so the state Senate passed legislation to correct that issue for wind and solar for 20 years. He added that the state's House of Representatives was expected to deal with the matter this week.

Other news from WindPower:

  • Madrid-based Ingeteam, a company specializing in engineered renewable energy, unveiled its plans for a new $15 million wind power generator manufacturing facility in Milwaukee, Wis. The company, which currently holds between 12-15 percent of the global market share for wind power components, will employ 275 people and supply equipment capable of producing 7,500 megawatts of clean electricity for the United States each year. The plant is expected to start production in January 2011.
  • GE and Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) of Northern Ohio have entered into a long-term partnership beginning with the development of the first fresh water offshore wind farm in the United States and involving a broad range of other initiatives. Under the new partnership GE will provide direct-drive wind turbines to LEEDCo’s 20 megawatt offshore wind project in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie. Upon its completion, targeted for late 2012, this project would be located off the shores of Lake Erie, near Cleveland, Ohio. This would be followed by subsequent projects with a long-term goal of 1,000 megawatts in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie by 2020.
  • 3M has partnered with Rope Partner to conduct an in-field study on the effects of leading edge wind turbine blade damage. The purpose of the yearlong study is to quantify the reduction in overall wind turbine output due to leading edge erosion. This data-driven study will be the first published work to put verifiable numbers behind this widespread issue for wind turbine blades.
  • Two Michigan-based design, engineering and testing companies – Ricardo, Inc. and LMS International – will jointly market their wind energy expertise in North America through the new North American Wind Energy Innovation and Development Center. This umbrella organization provides technical expertise and facilities to equipment suppliers, government agencies, utilities and other renewable-energy stakeholders at Ricardo’s Detroit Engineering Center in Van Buren Township and LMS North America’s engineering offices in Troy. Services will include individual component and systems-level design, development and integration, as well as software-based modeling and simulation, and physical testing of both new and legacy systems in the lab or in the field.

Fast Facts from the American Wind Energy Association

Just how big is wind?

It's so big that the industry has a division called "small wind."

It's so big that the U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2009 (enough to serve over 2.4 million homes). These new projects place wind power neck and neck with natural gas as the leading source of new electricity generation for the country. (The first quarter of 2010, however, saw only 539 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity in the United States.)

It's so big that there are 36 states that have utility-scale wind projects and 14 states are in the "Gigawatt Club" with more than 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity per state.

(Windmill image courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory.)

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