Federal tax credit for wind turbines gives GE a backlog of orders

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 8, 2014

Customer orders for General Electric Co.’s advanced wind turbines have surged over the last 18 months, the company announced yesterday, in part because renewable energy developers responded aggressively to Congress’ one-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy.

The rate of growth has been especially pronounced over the last 12 months, with new orders jumping from roughly 1 gigawatt of capacity in May 2013 to 3.9 GW of capacity today, according to GE. Most of that new capacity, 2.8 GW, will be completed or begin construction over the next 19 months and will use the company’s “brilliant” platform turbines.”We feel confident that, with our strong backlog of orders, we are strongly positioned for 2014 and 2015,” Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE’s renewable energy business, said in a press release.

“As we continue to expand our brilliant wind product line, our customers are seeing efficiencies and capabilities greater than ever before in the wind industry,” McEntee added, noting that “advancements in technology, combined with strong execution and operations expertise,” have allowed GE to grow its turbine business.

GE’s announcement coincided with the opening of the American Wind Energy Association’s national conference in Las Vegas, where an estimated 8,000 wind energy developers, manufacturers, supply chain vendors and policy advocates are gathered to promote the development and deployment of wind power in the United States.

In addition to the new turbine orders, GE also used the conference to announce the expansion of its “brilliant wind platform” to include management software applications that should improve overall wind farm output. The updated technology will use the industrial Internet and turbine-to-turbine communications to allow individual turbines within a wind farm to act as a cohesive unit. Also, GE’s new wind wake management technology will allow customers to recapture lost power output from turbines’ waking effects.

The wind energy industry is enjoying a strong 2014 thanks to a number of economic and policy factors, including dramatically declining costs to produce wind energy and the January 2013 extension of the 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour PTC that breathed new life into an industry that came to a virtual standstill in late 2012 and the first half of 2013 as the tax credit neared its sunset date.

Other factors, including the completion of a major transmission upgrade in Texas and similar improvements across other parts of the U.S. wind belt, has spurred billions of dollars in new wind farm investment.

At a press conference yesterday, Tom Darin, AWEA’s director of Western state policy, said that with 61.1 GW of capacity, wind power now accounts for slightly more than 4 percent of all U.S. electricity supply. The industry also has 13.4 GW under development in 21 states.