Wind power makes up a small slice of the nation’s energy pie, but its advocates have mounted a big lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to renew an expiring tax credit viewed as crucial for the industry’s survival. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is playing a prominent role in this effort as he joins advocates who want Congress to extend the wind-energy production tax credit beyond its Dec. 31 expiration date. Udall and Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who authored the first wind tax credit 20 years ago, want Congress to include it in a broader legislative package aimed at blocking sharp tax increases and automatic spending cuts set to take effect next year.
Power plants’ use of coal for electricity production will continue to decline over the next 15 years, the Energy Department’s statistical arm said today. The Energy Information Administration’s draft “Annual Energy Outlook 2013″ says more efficient use of fuel by existing power plants and the building of few new coal plants will reduce coal use.
Iowa is second to Texas in installed wind capacity, but the state is catching up on the wind energy educational front. The State of Iowa Board of Regents on Wednesday approved a proposal to establish a Ph.D. program in wind energy science, engineering and policy in Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. The request was recommended earlier this year by ISU’s faculty senate, Board Office and Council of Provosts.
A new worldwide survey of offshore wind installations takes a look at why it might be slow going in the United States, which still doesn’t have any. Navigant Consulting, reviewing conditions at the end of last year, found that building a wind machine offshore in Europe cost about 4 million euros (around $5.1 million) per megawatt of capacity. By comparison, wind turbines built onshore in the United States (the only point of comparison for now) cost about $2 million per megawatt.
Insiders are optimistic that Congress will extend wind energy tax breaks, but that doesn’t mean Iowa’s wind industry will see a quick boon. Iowa’s interests in the wind industry has pushed the state’s policymakers to be spokespeople for the federal tax breaks. For instance, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad went to Washington, D.C., last month for a news conference about the tax credit, while U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, delivered a speech on the House floor in support of the extension.
Materials science breakthroughs in wind turbine blade technology could drive down the costs of building wind farms and help put the renewable energy technology on a stronger economic footing to compete with coal- and natural-gas-fired electricity. Early-stage research by General Electric Co., with support from the Department of Energy and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, aims to use tensioned architectural fabrics rather than fiberglass as the primary material for turbine blades, thus driving down costs by 25 to 40 percent, according to officials involved in the research-and-development effort.
MetLife and an arm of General Electric that finances energy projects have teamed up for the second time this year as investors in a major wind farm in the Great Plains. This time, GE Energy Financial Services and MetLife Inc. joined Union Bank to invest $247 million in a wind farm near Wichita, Kan. The Post Rock wind farm has been up and running since Nov. 14, developed by Wind Capital Group. The 22,900-acre wind-energy farm is about 80 miles outside Wichita, in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties.
The Obama administration today announced it will hold its first competitive lease sales next year for offshore wind in U.S. waters, a decision that was hailed by clean energy advocates, industry groups and East Coast lawmakers. The Interior Department said two lease sales will be held in wind energy areas off the coast of Virginia and in federal waters shared by Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Just as the passengers on the Titanic could do nothing to avoid that iceberg, supporters of a key wind industry tax break have little control at this point over whether their incentive will continue into next year.
Proponents of the wind production tax credit (PTC) believe they have largely won the argument over the merits of extending it at least through next year — with a deep, bipartisan bench in both chambers of Congress on board in principle with an extension. But there is little appetite in Congress to address the credit in isolation of the broader suite of tax-and-spending issues collectively known as the “fiscal cliff.”
The drought continued to expand this week, with the largest increase found in the southeastern United States and Oklahoma.