Ranch land has been leased. Roads are being laid under the shadows of seabirds. And the $4 million wind turbines are on order. Wind developers from around the globe have rushed into the Texas Panhandle and Gulf Coast at a pace not seen since the industry’s early days in the mid-2000s. More than 7,000 megawatts of new wind turbines are scheduled to be built by the end of next year, potentially increasing Texas’ wind power capacity by almost 60 percent. Whether developers will be able to carry through as advertised remains to be seen. But the volume of projects underway represents a dramatic acceleration for a Texas wind industry that has seen relatively modest growth since 2010.
t the Environment Virginia Symposium on Tuesday, Virginia’s governor said climate change is real and man-made and that the state’s coastal communities are at risk. “If we want to help the environment tomorrow, we have to make smart, common-sense decisions today. The first big decision is to accept climate change is real,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said. “I believe humans contribute to climate change. I think it’s pretty much settled. I think the impacts are felt today.
One of Congress’ most vocal climate advocates today appealed to like-minded corporations to balance the influence and capital that anti-regulatory companies have spent fanning the flames of climate skepticism. Speaking at a Capitol Hill briefing with pro-climate action companies co-hosted by the umbrella organization Ceres, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) reiterated that he believes legislation to price carbon dioxide emissions is “tantalizingly close” — and perhaps possible as soon as next year. But well-heeled industry groups that have opposed action — he mentioned the fossil fuels industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — have created the illusion that corporate America is a behemoth opposed to any climate change regulation, he said.
IKEA announced that it is buying its first wind farm in the United States, a 98 MW wind project in Hoopestown, Illinois (approximately 110 miles south of Chicago). This purchase represents the single largest renewable invest made by IKEA anywhere on the planet, and gets the company closer to its goal of being net zero (producing as much as it consumes) by 2020. The total amount of money allocated to this corporate energy effort is $2 billion.
“It’s not going to be your grandfather’s energy industry,” Nancy Pfund, a managing partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital company DBL Investors LLC, said at the conference. “We’re going to see a parallel evolution in energy like we’ve seen in computing, phones and radio. There really hasn’t been an innovation cycle in energy in 100 years.”
A good state law requires Ohio utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity sales from renewable and alternative energy sources by 2025. Utilities also must adopt energy-efficiency measures aimed at cutting electricity consumption in the state by 22 percent in the same period. Since the clean-energy law was enacted in 2008, it has helped promote an alternative-energy industry that has created more than 25,000 jobs in Ohio, and has shrunk electric bills for consumers. A measure passed two years ago affirmed and strengthened the earlier law.
The late extension of the federal Production Tax Credit in 2013 resulted in a 92 percent drop in completed installations nationwide, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s sixth annual market report, which was released during a meeting in Lenexa. That tax credit expired at the end of last year, and its future is iffy. In addition, in Kansas, wind energy has come under attack from powerful groups that want to do away with the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires electric utilities to hit certain benchmarks in providing energy through renewable sources.
The wind industry didn’t just see the number of new turbines it brought online fall off a cliff last year, it also shed more than a third of its workforce as project developers, manufacturers, utilities and other companies struggled to rebound following the brief expiration of a prized tax incentive, the American Wind Energy Association said today in its annual report. Total employment in the industry fell to 50,500 at the end of last year, down from 80,700 workers at the end of 2012, according to the AWEA report, which calculates the figures based on “full-time equivalent” employees across hundreds of companies in the industry.
Once a booming industry, U.S. wind power saw its growth plummet 92% last year as it wrestled with tax uncertainties and cheap natural gas. The industry is still growing but not nearly as fast, says a report Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association. It added a record 13,131 megawatts of power in 2012 but that fell to only 1,087 MW last year — the lowest level since 2004. One reason was investors’ uncertainty that Congress would renew a federal wind tax subsidy. “People didn’t know it would be passed … so they weren’t creating new projects” early last year, says AWEA’s president Tom Kiernan. He says it takes about nine months to plan a wind farm, so the one-year extension in January 2013 didn’t trigger a flurry of new wind farm construction until the second half of 2013.
The developer of a proposed 25-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey yesterday appealed a state agency’s decision to reject the project. Cape May, N.J.-based Fishermen’s Energy asked the state’s Board of Public Utilities to revisit what would be the first wind project built in state waters, about 3 miles from Atlantic City. The company in a statement to the board called its decision last month “palpably incorrect” because the agency used a per-unit electricity cost that may have been wrong.