Wind power is facing a make-or-break moment in Congress, with renewable-energy firms’ projects on hold as lawmakers debate whether to extend subsidies for new wind farms this month. Industry players see two main chances for Congress to act this year. One comes in February, when the wind subsidies could be tacked on to an extension of payroll-tax cuts. The other would come in the lame-duck session after November elections, when lawmakers must address the expiration of tax cuts from 2001
A show of support from two Midwestern GOP governors for a wind-industry tax credit yesterday drew fire from Washington conservatives, underscoring the hard road for renewables advocates pushing to extend the break.
Advocates of extending the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, set to expire at year’s end if Congress does not act, hailed a letter released yesterday by Republican Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Terry Branstad of Iowa that warned of job losses and squandered power-generation potential if the benefit were not re-upped.
Enthusiasm for offshore wind projects may have cooled among developers in the United States these days, but the Obama administration is still trying to make a ribbon of wind farms off the Atlantic Coast a reality. On Thursday, Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, and Tommy P. Beaudreau, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the government had completed an environmental review and found that selling leases for wind energy would not create environmental problems in the designated “wind energy areas” off the coasts of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.
The Midwestern governors said “our states have experienced the economic benefits of wind first hand,” said the letter, addressed to the Senate-House conference committee. The PTC has been attached to the newest version of the Payroll Tax cut, to be debated later this month. Wind interests say that wind equipment providers and operators need to have the new law in place at least by the end of the first half of this year in order to secure financing for projects beyond this year.
The Obama administration said it planned to make areas off the coasts of Maryland and New Jersey available to wind-energy developers by year’s end, paving the way for the first leases under a program designed to fast-track offshore wind farms.
While President Barack Obama has said he favors an “all of the above” approach to energy development, Thursday’s announcement highlighted the stronger emphasis he places on wind and solar power compared with Republicans. A House committee on Wednesday approved three bills promoting oil-and-gas exploration, an issue also stressed by the GOP’s presidential candidates.
In 2005, VC investment in clean tech measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The following year, it ballooned to $1.75 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association. By 2008, the year after Doerr’s speech, it had leaped to $4.1 billion. And the federal government followed. Through a mix of loans, subsidies, and tax breaks, it directed roughly $44.5 billion into the sector between late 2009 and late 2011. Avarice, altruism, and policy had aligned to fuel a spectacular boom. Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities—the clean-tech bubble has burst, leaving us with a traditional energy infrastructure still overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels. The fallout has hit almost every niche in the clean-tech sector—wind, biofuels, electric cars, and fuel cells—but none more dramatically than solar.
A group of climate scientists faulted The Wall Street Journal for publishing a column in which scientists from other disciplines disputed the occurrence of significant man-made global warming. In a letter to the Journal today, the climate scientists compared the publishing of the op-ed to consulting a dentist about a heart complaint.
U.S. development ambitions for Chinese turbine manufacturer XinJiang Goldwind received a major boost yesterday as the company signed a new financing agreement with China Development Bank Corp., providing an estimated 35 billion yuan ($5.5 billion) in new capital for 2012. The deal, announced in a statement to the Hong King stock exchange, will allow the company to solidify its No. 2 standing in the Chinese turbine market behind Sinovel Wind Group Co., but will also help propel its recent expansion into the U.S. wind power market.
House Republicans yesterday advanced a trio of energy bills that would allow a vast expansion of oil and gas development in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and in the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The bills, which passed the Natural Resources Committee on mostly party-line votes, now move to the House floor where they are expected to join Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is blowing into B’more Thursday to announce the Obama administration’s latest move to boost development of industrial-scale wind energy projects off the mid-Atlantic coast. He’ll be joined at the World Trade Center in the Inner Harbor by Gov.Martin O’Malley and Tommy P. Beaudreau, director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Officials were mum, officially speaking, on the details of Salazar’s announcement. A news advisory said only that the Interior secretary would declare a “major step” toward putting turbines on the Outer Continental Shelf off Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia.