Few issues arouse as much passion for Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander as federal subsidies for wind-generated electricity. But utilities, including his home-state Tennessee Valley Authority, are finding they like wind power more and more. Alexander, up for re-election in 2014, argues the country needs 100 new nuclear plants to ensure low cost and clean power for the 21st century.
Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) was the biggest wind turbine manufacturer in 2012, Danish researcher Make Consulting, contradicting a preliminary report last month from another analyst that gave General Electric Co. (GE) the lead.
Nowadays, a huge chunk of the action on clean energy in the United States is happening at the state level. Some 29 states and Washington D.C. have renewable energy standards requiring electric utilities to get a portion of their power from sources like wind or solar. Those state-level standards have played a big role in doubling the amount of renewable-energy capacity in the United States in the past four years. And current standards are projected to add some 76,750 megawatts of new renewable power capacity by 2025 — enough, in theory, to power 47 million homes.
With the recent layoff of 40 employees at Acciona Windpower in West Branch and larger furloughs last fall at Siemens Energy, Trinity Towers and other Iowa wind turbine component plants, the long-term viability of the industry has been questioned. But analysts who follow the electric power industry are quick to affirm the future of wind power as a long-term source of renewable energy. “Wind is not going anywhere,” said Shane Mullins, vice president of product development for the power industry at research firm Industrial Info Resources in Sugar Land, Texas. “Many wind turbine manufacturers did not receive any orders after June of last year as developers waited to see if Congress would extend the production tax credit before it expired on Dec. 31. With the extension of the PTC on Jan. 3, wind turbine construction projects that were put on hold last year are going to be dusted off.
WE will need fossil fuels like oil and gas for the foreseeable future. So there’s really little choice (sigh). We have to press ahead with fracking for natural gas. We must approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil. This mantra, repeated on TV ads and in political debates, is punctuated with a tinge of inevitability and regret. But, increasingly, scientific research and the experience of other countries should prompt us to ask: To what extent will we really “need” fossil fuel in the years to come? To what extent is it a choice?
In a vote split along partisan lines, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today approved plans in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic for revamping the grid planning process, while the two Republicans on the commission rejected the order and expressed concern about the fate of new projects. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, a Democrat, and Democratic Commissioners Cheryl Lafleur and John Norris found that PJM Interconnection and the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator had largely complied with Order 1000, the agency’s landmark ruling that revamps the way new power lines are planned and paid for.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden promised today to do everything he can to move the government’s “clumsy … machinery” to make the U.S. electric grid a smart grid. The Oregon Democrat said he is planning to hold oversight hearings with federal agencies responsible for building out the smart grid to understand whether they are working on all angles to facilitate a transition to a digitized grid, especially on the consumer end.
Before energy companies invest in developing wind energy off Virginia’s coast, they’ll need to know what’s out there: sea life, what the ocean floor is like, shipping routes, migratory birds and wind speeds. A Virginia Beach startup has begun the daunting task of collecting that data.
“Deals are getting signed; people are ramping up their production facilities again,” said Peter C. Duprey, chief executive of Broadwind. “The whole industry went through either a shutdown or idling at the end of last year and are now quickly trying to gear back up again.” The rush to development is in large part because of Congress. Lawmakers had allowed a popular incentive, known as the production tax credit, to lapse at the end of last year, but then renewed it in January. They also changed the requirement so that projects only have to be under construction by the end of the year to qualify, rather than fully operational, as had traditionally been the case.
After three years of trying, Gov. Martin O’Malley has won approval of legislation that aims to spur construction of towering wind turbines off Maryland’s Atlantic coast. Now comes the hard part. Daunting regulatory, political and financial hurdles remain before a wind-driven power plant could be built in the water 10 to 20 miles from Ocean City. Even if all goes right, construction could be four to seven years away, industry and government experts say — long after O’Malley has left the State House.