Google is backing it. So is Warren Buffett, America’s most-watched investor. GE, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, is too. Each of these corporate icons is placing big bets and hundreds of millions of dollars on a future powered by wind and solar power. Apple just joined them, announcing plans to power its main U.S. data center in Maiden, North Carolina, entirely with renewable energy by the end of this year. So why – yet again – are pundits making dire warnings about prospects for renewable energy?
After years of nurturing China’s wind power sector to become the largest in the world, the nation’s policymakers now appear to have second thoughts. A succession of government policies issued during the past few months have begun pushing officials and developers to shift their focus from building more wind farms toward ensuring that more of the wind-generated electricity can flow into power grids safely.
The Bureau of Land Management has paved the way for engineering and cultural resource surveys for the land along a proposed electrical transmission line that would service a $300 million wind energy project on Steens Mountain in Oregon. The agency did not, however, approve construction of the 44-mile-long North Steens Transmission Line.
Recent statements from Gov. Paul LePage regarding wind energy are causing some angst in Maine’s wind power industry at a time changes in Augusta and Washington, D.C., are creating uncertainty over political support for renewable energy. Since his election in 2010, LePage has questioned the economics behind wind power as part of his administration’s focus on lowering energy costs for Maine ratepayers. But the Republican governor’s rhetoric has intensified in recent months, suggesting that the technology is increasing energy costs and padding the pockets of “special interests.”
President Barack Obama used a visit to Iowa, the state with the most wind jobs, to push Congress on federal support for wind manufacturers Thursday — but not without blowback from critics who argue the measure is too expensive. The wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year, must be extended by Congress to save jobs, Obama said after touring TPI Composites, a blade manufacturer in Newton, Iowa.
Federal regulators yesterday gave Clean Line Energy Partners permission to begin signing customers up for its proposed 500-mile transmission line that will ship wind power from northwestern Iowa to Chicago. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Texas-based Clean Line Energy can begin selling capacity on its proposed $1.7 billion Rock Island Clean Line project, a high-voltage direct-current line that will transfer up to 3,500 megawatts of wind power in Iowa — as well as other generation in Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota — to Grundy County in Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago.
But his main point, as he stood in front of the hollow, circular ends of six massive wind turbine blades, was the need to extend wind energy tax breaks. He told the crowd that since he became president, the nation has nearly doubled the use of renewable energy, including solar and wind power. “I’m here today because as much progress as we’ve made, that progress is in jeopardy,” Obama said.
China’s Commerce Ministry issued a ruling Thursday that U.S. government support for six renewable energy projects violated free-trade rules, the latest volley in a widening conflict over clean power. The United States and China, the world’s two biggest energy users, have pledged to work together to develop renewable sources. But they accuse each other of improperly subsidizing or protecting their manufacturers.
Adding more wind power to the electric grid could reduce wholesale market prices by more than 25 percent in the Midwest region by 2020 according to a new analysis conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid. The report found that wind power could drive down the wholesale price of power by $3 – $10 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the near term and up to nearly $50 per MWh by 2030.
The main event will take place Thursday, when Obama will visit a wind manufacturer in Newton, Iowa. According to a White House release today, the president will use the opportunity to call for an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) that is set to expire at the end of the year. The White House has pointed to industry statistics that show that nearly 30,000 jobs could be lost next year if the PTC expires, including direct jobs as well as those in the manufacturers’ supply chain.