Blessed with some breathing room, the wind industry is taking a step back from last year’s aggressive lobbying push, which ended with a renewal of its lucrative tax credit, to chart a path away from the boom-and-bust cycle that has been inherent in its heavy reliance on government support, industry leaders said this week during a conference here. With the production tax credit effectively in place to support wind farm development at least through early 2015, the industry is brainstorming on how to get through the next five to six years, which developers and manufacturers say they need before they can compete — subsidy-free — with natural gas and other forms of electricity generation. At the same time, attention is focusing more heavily on the states, where mandates that utilities purchase renewable energy have increasingly come under attack from Republicans and conservative activists.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced Wednesday that MidAmerican Energy will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa for wind energy projects that will be the biggest single economic investment ever in the state. “As wind energy goes, so does Iowa’s economy,” said Branstad, who spoke enthusiastically about the plans. He added, “Remember, once they make this investment it will be here for the next 40 or 50 years.” MidAmerican officials said no sites have been selected yet, but they hinted the sites would be in northwest Iowa and south of Interstate Highway 80 in western Iowa.
Iowa’s largest energy company announced plans Wednesday to spend $1.9 billion to install hundreds of wind turbines by the end of 2015, marking what the governor described as the largest economic development project in the state’s history. Officials with Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy made the announcement at a Statehouse news conference with Gov. Terry Branstad, who noted that wind energy has been a selling point for high-tech firms looking to invest in Iowa. “Wind energy is an exploding field and we’re excited about it,” Branstad said. “As wind energy grows, so does the Iowa economy.”
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is expanding ongoing efforts to design and implement wind-energy forecasting systems that should allow utilities to better integrate wind-generated electricity onto the power grid. NCAR today announced it is expanding an existing partnership with Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy to add sophisticated weather forecasting systems aimed at calculating times of peak wind energy and, perhaps as important, providing utilities advance notice of when winds are expected to be low.
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio yesterday said he has the support of key Democrats to succeed Rep. Ed Markey as the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee if the Massachusetts lawmaker wins his race for a Senate seat next month
Coming off one of the most tumultuous years in its recent history, the U.S. wind power industry has emerged stronger and more confident of its future, industry leaders gathered here for the American Wind Energy Association’s national conference said yesterday. But for wind power to solidify its standing in a highly competitive energy market, it must shift its focus from federal tax policies to seek a broader agenda that plays to wind energy’s inherent strengths while fighting back against those who argue that wind cannot compete with fossil fuels for electricity generation.
House Republicans this week are poised to step into several prickly debates over how the grid and power prices are being affected by an increasing amount of renewables that require natural gas backup, the effect of production tax credits for wind and looming U.S. EPA rules.
Wind industry leaders are urging their members to spend more time lobbying and give more money to political campaigns as they seek to craft a long-term strategy to win supportive policies at the federal, state and local level and defend against their well-funded critics. The American Wind Energy Association opened its annual conference here with an appeal for industry officials to get more involved in the political process as the organization’s new CEO and board chairman acknowledged that they had a lot of work ahead to design a plan to allow for stable growth for years to come.
A top wind trade group said Monday that it’s crafting a long-term policy plan that it plans to take to tax-writing committees in the House and the Senate. The proposal will include “a number of scenarios or strategies,” incoming American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan said at the organization’s annual conference in Chicago. AWEA officials will embark on a road show of sorts to get input from industry stakeholders before finalizing a proposal.
More than a year after its approval, a proposed wind farm in the Columbia River Gorge remains in legal limbo. Now the controversial plan is headed for a date with the Washington Supreme Court. The Whistling Ridge Energy Project received a green light last year from then-Gov. Chris Gregoire. But the decision also scaled back the original proposal, reducing the number of wind turbines from 50 to 35 in order to protect views in the federally protected Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.