The Texas Panhandle’s wind energy industry is about to be blown away. An international mix of companies has committed to more than doubling the region’s production capacity by spending more than an estimated $3.3 billion on construction of wind farms in the next two years.
There is a treasure trove of renewable energy in the U.S., but the obstacles and barriers to getting it on the grid are many. Johnathan Hladik, energy policy advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), said the biggest hurdle right now is the lack of high voltage transmission lines. Adding to that infrastructure would allow for the use of more renewable resources, he said, while helping with rural economic development. “There is so much opportunity associated with increased property tax paid by wind-turbine owners and by those building transmission lines, with the actual construction jobs associated with both the wind turbines and the transmission lines,” he explained. “We’re looking at a good way to rejuvenate a lot of our smaller communities.”
I was elated to read March 8 (“Panel draws ire for wind tax bill”) that several senators on the Revenue Committee voted to advance a bill that would allow renewable energy companies tax breaks under the Nebraska Advantage Act.
Despite a recent report trumpeting a record year for wind power in 2012, the numbers are not as encouraging as they seem. Because even though total wind power capacity grew by 30 percent last year, with 13,000 megawatts in new wind turbines, the actual portion of our electricity coming from wind energy did not increase proportionally. Also, the forecast for future growth in the next few years is not robust, which means wind power will not keep up with the faster growing use of natural gas.
Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity production globally, and in the U.S., Texas ranks No. 1 for wind energy capacity. If Texas were a country, it would be sixth in the world. Presently, Texas has 12,000 megawatts installed, which signifies a $20 billion investment in the state and creates jobs, said Elizabeth A. Salerno, director, Industry Data and Analysis, American Wind Energy Association.
Five companies responded positively to a federal survey asking whether they would be interested in developing offshore wind power off the coast of North Carolina. Virginia Electric and Power Co., which serves Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, was one of the respondents.
The budget released last night by Senate Democrats calls for substantial investments in energy infrastructure and research as mechanisms to boost the economy and address the effects of climate change. The plan is heavy on calls for infrastructure investments, including transmission lines, “smart grid” technology, water management and mass transit. The document is not binding on lawmakers but presents Democrats’ priorities for the coming years.
A major renewable energy project for 87 wind turbines on federal land near Searchlight received government approval Wednesday. The wind farm would cover about 160 acres of a 19,000 acre piece of Bureau of Land Management property west of Searchlight and would generate 200 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 70,000 homes, according to the BLM.
The Maryland Senate on Friday cleared a measure that would make it easier to develop wind energy off the coast of Ocean City.
Many environmentalists believe that wind and solar power can be scaled to meet the rising demand, especially if coupled with aggressive efforts to cut waste. But a lot of energy analysts have crunched the numbers and concluded that today’s renewables, important as they are, cannot get us even halfway there. “We need energy miracles,” Mr. Gates said in a speech three years ago introducing his approach, embodied in a company called TerraPower.