The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported that the U.S. looks likely to install 1,400 to 1,600 MW of new wind power this year, reducing demand for natural gas and bringing new jobs and tax revenues to cash-strapped states, while at the same time helping to achieve cleaner air. While the outlook for the balance of the year is strong, AWEA warned that the wind industry’s future beyond year’s end will be strongly influenced by whether Congress extends the wind production tax credit (PTC) scheduled to expire December, 31.Washington, D.C. – August 22, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] According to AWEA’s quarterly assessment of the wind energy market, the wind project developments that are underway could increase the cumulative total of U.S. installed wind capacity to over 6,000 MW. That level of wind capacity will be able to produce approximately 16 billion kWh of pollution-free electricity, enough to serve 1.57 million average U.S homes. “We see more reason for optimism than we did three months ago,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “The market appears to be firming as the end of the year draws nearer.” In the past month, a number of large projects have been announced that will increase the year-end tally. Developers are pushing to complete projects by the end of the year in order to qualify for the PTC. “A quick extension of the credit is urgently needed to ensure that the momentum gained toward industry growth is not lost as it has been in the past when the credit expired,” said Swisher. “The PTC provides a simple, yet powerful and necessary, boost to the development of clean, renewable wind power.” A three-year extension of the PTC is included in both the House and Senate versions of comprehensive energy legislation now pending in Congress. “The industry’s growth continues to be hampered by a wide range of market barriers, from utility unfamiliarity with the technology to problems obtaining fair access to transmission lines,” Swisher said. “The PTC provides the stimulus needed to overcome these barriers and open the market, and its extension is critical to the industry’s future.” Swisher also called on energy bill conferees to support Senate-passed provisions that would establish a national Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring that 10 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020 and a Small Turbine Investment Credit for homeowners who install residential wind machines. Extending the PTC, according to AWEA, will also have a major impact in these three key areas: Ease Natural Gas Shortage: Across the country, customers are facing electricity and natural gas rate hikes due to the natural gas supply shortage. Every unit of electricity that is produced by a wind farm is one for which the country does not have to burn natural gas or other resources. AWEA estimates that an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of wind power will save approximately 0.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (Bcf/day) in 2004, alleviating 10-15 percent of the supply pressure that is now facing the natural gas industry. For example, FPL Energy is now putting the finishing touches on the largest wind power project to be installed in the U.S. this year — the 204-MW New Mexico Wind Energy Center. At average production rates, that project will produce energy to supply more than 51,000 homes. More than six Bcf of natural gas per year would be needed to generate the same amount of electricity. AWEA believes that more wind plants provide what is potentially the quickest and best supply-side option to ease the natural gas shortage Boost Economic Development: The best wind power resource in the country is in rural areas, where it is a welcome source of skilled jobs, income to farmers, and taxes to the community. New wind facilities are adding high-tech jobs in places where the economy continues to stagnate. Wind farms also expand the local tax base, and keep energy dollars in the local community instead of spending them to pay for coal or gas produced elsewhere. A consortium of wind power leaders — including Shell WindEnergy, Padoma Wind Power, Green Mountain Energy Co., TXU Energy, Cielo Wind Power, and Orion Energy — recently announced that it would build a 160-MW project in western Texas. The consortium will lease the land for the project from private farmers and ranchers, who can receive $2,000 to $3,000 per turbine annually, with no more than 2.5 acres per turbine removed from production for turbines, access roads, and other equipment. “Greening” America’s Electricity Generating Facilities: Burning fossil fuels for electricity generation causes over a third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the country, as well as more than two-thirds of the emissions that cause acid rain, and one-third of the emissions that cause smog. Generating electricity from the wind creates no harmful emissions. States in the Upper Midwest (North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa) will add more than 375 MW of new wind power in 2003 to take advantage of their vast wind resources. If those states were to generate the same amount of electricity with America’s current fuel mix, it would create nearly 600 million tons of carbon dioxide. Using the wind instead is like taking more than 160,000 cars off the road.