A record amount of wind is being turned into electricity in Colorado this week as the last of 250 turbines started turning at NextEra Energy Resource’s Limon wind farm. The wind is now providing about 17 percent of all the electricity used by Xcel Energy customers — more than four times the national average.
House Speaker John Boehner said yesterday that he’s preparing to bring a “Plan B” bill to the floor that would extend existing tax rates for all but the wealthiest individuals, but aides and lawmakers say the legislation is unlikely to include an extension to the wind production tax credit or other temporary incentives. The bill would extend current tax rates for people who make less than $1 million per year, the Ohio Republican said at a news conference this morning after a meeting of the House Republican Conference. The bill is expected to come to a vote Thursday.
The ongoing war of words over the “fiscal cliff” that intensified yesterday left unanswered one of the most important questions for energy watchers: What will happen to a suite of expired or expiring tax credits? The debate over those incentives, including the wind production tax credit and subsidies to promote energy efficiency and alternative fuels, has largely simmered on the back burner amid the broader debate over across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. That is still the case, although observers continue to believe they have a good chance of being included in a year-end cliff package, if there is one.
Danes may be proud of their country’s leadership in wind energy, but increasingly they don’t want any turbines near their houses. Which makes it more difficult for the government to reach its goal to get 50 percent of its electricity from wind by 2020, up from 28 percent last year. So Denmark, home to the world’s top two wind turbine manufacturers, has invited bidders to build 500 megawatts of offshore wind parks and generate enough electricity to power half a million homes.
The wind blowing off the coasts and lakeshores of the United States could power the country four times over, according to the Department of Energy. Yet to date, not a single offshore wind turbine has been built. The problem, in a word, is cost — technology and installation costs remain prohibitively high, and the bar is set to rise further with the expiration of the production tax credit for wind energy at the end of this year.
The Obama administration’s efforts to promote offshore wind in the Atlantic Ocean this week expanded south to North Carolina and Georgia, building on an existing program to tap winds in the mid-Atlantic. The Interior Department on Wednesday announced it is gauging industry’s interest in building wind farms in three areas totaling nearly 2,000 square miles off North Carolina.
The head of the American Wind Energy Association announced her resignation on Friday. Denise Bode will be leaving her post as president and CEO of AWEA on Dec. 31 to return to private practice as a tax attorney ahead of next year’s expected debate on Capitol Hill over comprehensive tax reform. “There is now a strong, bipartisan team of Congressional champions for the wind industry, and the all-important extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC),” Bode said in a statement. “When that is secured, all of my goals from the AWEA Board will have been accomplished. I am extremely proud to have led the AWEA staff as we worked together to get that job done, and, of course, grateful to the AWEA Board for the opportunity to serve this very promising industry.”
Anticipating a major tax reform effort next year, Denise Bode stepped down Friday as head of the American Wind Energy Association to work as a private lobbyist on tax issues next year. Bode, who has been chief executive of the wind industry group for four years, said “the opportunity to be just focused on advocacy in this kind of setting only comes once every 30 years.” She said she would stay with the group through the end of the year to try to secure an extension of the production tax credit for wind projects.
The wind industry last week proposed phasing out its prized tax credit in response to concerns from deficit hawks on Capitol Hill who say the government can no longer afford to subsidize wind turbine construction. But it is proving difficult to come up with a reliable estimate of how much the proposal would cost. Wind advocates say the production tax credit effectively costs taxpayers nothing because the $1 billion-plus per year that the government spends on the credit is more than recouped through federal, state and local taxes paid throughout the construction and operation of the wind farm. Wind detractors, meanwhile, are using some different math to put an inflated price tag on the industry’s proposal.
Areas afflicted by the U.S. drought slightly shrank this week, yet more than half the country remains parched. The U.S. Drought Monitor today said 51.8 percent of the country is in drought, down from last week’s 52.2 percent. Areas affected by severe and extreme drought inched upward, though the percentage of the country in exceptional drought remained the same.