No matter who wins the White House next week, Steven Chu is widely expected to soon book a one-way ticket back to California, sparking heightened speculation over who may be tapped to take over after his embattled term leading the Department of Energy if President Obama is re-elected.
This month, utilities and regional transmission planners are issuing compliance filings on Order 1000, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s broadly scripted mandate to limber up America’s electric grid (ClimateWire, Oct. 18).
As the U.S. looks to another record year for wind power installations, one large North American developer says that the market will continue to grow, but the U.S. could play less of a role. In an interview with Dow Jones, Mike Garland, the chief executive of Pattern Energy, a wind power project developer backed by Riverstone Holdings, said there are still opportunities for expansion beyond the U.S. in Canada and even newer markets like Colombia and Chile, where his firm has just begun developing.
Central and Eastern European countries are moving to disconnect their power lines from Germany’s as a glut of wind-generated electricity risks causing blackouts. It is a situation that highlights the difficulty many countries are facing as they try to integrate the world’s 200,000 wind turbines with aging and limited infrastructure.
Fagen Inc., a contractor for Exergy Development Group, says it is entitled to ownership of Exergy’s Big Blue Project near Blue Earth, Minn. In a lawsuit, the contractor says a February pact it struck with Exergy gives it control of the Big Blue Project because the Idaho company hasn’t come up with an $11.4 million loan repayment.
The wind energy industry is at a crossroads, rapidly shedding jobs and preparing for bigger layoffs if Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney gets his way and a billion-dollar tax break for the industry is allowed to expire. It’s become a contentious issue in the campaign, and it’s at the center of the battle between President Barack Obama and Romney over federal investment in renewable energy at a time of government budget deficits. The stakes are heightened by the fact that crucial swing states in the election are among the nation’s leaders in wind power jobs.
Iowa’s wind energy producers and manufacturers are scrambling to finance new projects in the next two months because they don’t know if the Federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit they rely on heavily will be available after then. MidAmerican Energy Co., the nation’s largest wind power generator among rate-regulated utilities, has no plans beyond December to expand its wind energy projects, company media relations manager Tina Potthoff said.
Appearing in Iowa on Friday, which gets nearly a fifth of its electricity from wind, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would “phase out” support for renewable and nuclear energy once those industries are mature. The line appeared to some as if Romney was signing on to an idea that is gaining currency within the wind industry — and its supporters on Capitol Hill — as it faces a looming expiration of the prized production tax credit at the end of this year: to gradually reduce the PTC over several years, rather than letting it lapse this year.
The wind industry, fighting to hold onto a generous tax credit set to expire in December, has been arguing that it does not need the support forever – just a little while longer, until it can compete with fossil fuels on its own. The tax break subsidizes wind power by 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour to bring its cost closer to that of conventional fuels, and it has periodically been renewed by Congress with support from both parties. But like other subsidies for alternative energy, it has been tarred in some people’s eyes by the government’s investment in the failed solar company Solyndra and has become a wedge issue in the presidential contest. President Obama wants the credit extended, while Mitt Romney has urged that it expire as scheduled.
Port officials here are vowing to roll out the red carpet for the nascent offshore wind industry. The Port of Virginia, home to Naval Station Norfolk and the world’s largest military-industrial complex, hopes to become a home base for assembling, shipping and installing massive wind turbines for mid-Atlantic power projects.