The Highs and Lows of the US Wind Industry

There is both good news and bad news surrounding the wind industry in the United States. Which do you want first?

We will start with the good. In 2012 alone, developers have added 4,728 MW of wind capacity, a 40 percent increase from the previous year and there is another 8,430 MW under construction. Currently, the overall installed capacity of the US wind industry is greater than 50,000 MW for the first time ever, enough to power about 10% of American homes according to The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).  Also for the first time ever, 39 states have utility scale wind installations. Due to growing construction, the outlook for wind energy may look rosy, but the industry could be in for blustery times in the near future.

And now for the bad news: The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is a federal subsidy that provides a tax credit of $.022 per kWh generated for the first ten years of a renewable facility’s operation, is set to expire at the end of 2012. According to AWEA, the PTC supplies the wind industry with over $15 billion in investment annually. Not only would letting the PTC expire hinder the US´s quest for clean, renewable power and energy independence, according to a Navigant Consulting survey, it would also eliminate 37,000 jobs, further hindering the recovery of America’s fragile economy. Vestas, one of the world’s largest turbine manufacturers, has already cut 800 jobs in North America because of the uncertainty surrounding the amount of construction in the near future.

The days of installed wind power growth on American soil could be numbered if the PTC, which has been in place continuously since 2005, is not extended by year-end.  What congress decides to do about the PTC in the coming months will shape the wind energy in the US drastically. Let’s hope that they don’t blow this opportunity.




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