The balance of 2004 looks like a difficult period for the US wind energy industry, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
AWEA said this month that it is forecasting little to no growth in installed wind generating capacity this year, compared with a near-record 1,687 MW (enough to serve nearly 500,000 homes) of new capacity installed in 2003.
The reason for the drastic fall-off, according to the AWEA, is the inability of the US Congress to pass a timely extension of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expired on December 31, 2003. On May 11, the Senate passed legislation containing a three-year extension of the credit, to December 31, 2006. However, that legislation must still be approved by the House of Representatives and a Senate-House conference committee before it is ready to be signed into law.
AWEA now projects that new 2004 installations will be less than 500MW. It warned that the number is dropping daily and will continue to drop until Congress extends the PTC. Wind power plant developers require at least six months of lead time to arrange for the purchase of equipment, obtain permits, and arrange for the financing and construction. The longer an extension is delayed, the less likely a project can be completed before year’s end.
“Congress must act quickly to extend the PTC so thousands of people in the wind industry can get back to work,” said Legislative Director Jaime Steve.
“There are many wind projects throughout the country ready to move forward that will create jobs, spur significant rural economic development, and produce clean, emission-free electricity for consumers,” Steve added.
Most industry participants predicted that 2004 could have been an even better year than 2003 had the PTC not expired. According to AWEA, the US could easily install 2,000 MW of new wind power per year in the short term.