The drought continued to expand this week, with the largest increase found in the southeastern United States and Oklahoma.
Ongoing budget negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) showed little sign of progress yesterday, leaving a suite of energy-related tax breaks hanging in the balance. Expired or expiring tax incentives for wind energy, alternative fuels, home weatherization and other activities are expected to be included as part of a broader legislative package aimed at addressing the looming spending cuts and tax hikes collectively known as the “fiscal cliff.”
A Devens technology company embroiled in several intellectual property theft lawsuits in China said it has cut its staff significantly again, this time blaming a slowdown in the wind energy industry it helps supply. On Wednesday, AMSC — formerly known as American Superconductor — said it laid off about 25 percent of its workforce, or an estimated 100 employees. The company now has 340 workers worldwide, down from a peak of about 800 in 2011.
Energy is the issue of our time. No other issue will have a greater impact on our future, our air quality, our water resources, our economy, and our quality of life.
The fate of an expiring tax credit for wind power is closely tied to prospects for an end-of-the-year deal on the so-called fiscal cliff, but its relatively low prominence in those talks is making it difficult for supporters to handicap their chances of winning an extension before the end of the year.
Officials in Massachusetts yesterday gave their expected blessing to a power purchase contract between Cape Wind and a state utility, clearing another key hurdle in the long-running effort to construct the first offshore wind farm in federal waters. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities yesterday approved a contract between Cape Wind, an affiliate of Energy Management Inc., and state utility NStar for 27.5 percent of the 468-megawatt wind farm’s output. The DPU last year approved a separate power purchase agreement (PPA) between Cape Wind and National Grid for 50 percent of the output, and the remaining generation remains unsold.
Leaders of a Bipartisan Policy Center energy project today called on President Obama to create a new council headed by his Energy secretary that would craft a broad national agenda and coordinate policy across agencies. The proposed National Energy Strategy Council would include secretaries from numerous departments and release a plan by June 30, 2013, laying out the Obama administration’s energy goals, budget priorities and legislative agenda.
Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult to find a single wind turbine looming over the hills and plains of the United States. Things have changed since then — and dramatically so. Thanks to a series of tax credits from Congress as well as ambitious state-level mandates, wind power has taken off. Thousands of turbines now dot the landscape in states such as Texas and California. Last year, wind power generated 3 percent of the country’s electricity. The industry now employs roughly 75,000 Americans, in jobs like steel manufacturing or mechanical assembly.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers will join military veterans at a Wednesday event pressing Congress to extend a wind energy incentive. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), along with Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) and Steve King (R-Iowa), will tout the wind industry as a job creator. The lawmakers also will present a petition signed by veterans across the country asking Congress to extend the credit.
Another priority should be to harden and modernize the transmission systems that carry high-voltage electricity from large power plants down to the local distribution level. Modernization includes increasing the use of high-voltage direct-current (DC) transmission lines, which are less prone to failure than the alternating-current (AC) systems used throughout the country. DC lines can be buried underground or underwater, as is the Cross Sound Cable between Connecticut and Long Island, helping to enhance their reliability.