News roundup: PTC boosts wind, Utah grows its resources, Texas goes big
We return from the weekend with good news of wind’s popularity, a push to catch the breeze in Utah, and the story of Texas’s most recent drive for more megawatts.
Construction of new wind power took off in the beginning of 2014, but Congress should act to extend the PTC to help keep this wave of new wind installations going:
- Wind energy investment has been growing at a 19.5 percent annual rate over the past five years, with an average $15 billion per year invested in new projects. With costs dropping 43 percent between 2008 and 2012, wind energy is now providing clean, renewable electricity to the equivalent of 15.5 million U.S. homes across 39 states and Puerto Rico, and the U.S. economy and society is benefiting in numerous other ways.
- U.S. wind energy growth and development has been remarkable over the past five years and more, notwithstanding successive boom-bust cycles – the result of the waxing and waning of the wind energy PTC. Whether its building or operating wind farms or manufacturing, the wind energy industry is now present in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. In a surprisingly short period of time, wind energy has become the lowest cost means of producing electricity in a growing number of U.S. markets, accounting for 31 percent of new U.S. electric generation capacity over the past five years.
- “In the last several years, and highlighted by the tremendous industry activity that ramped up in 2013, U.S. wind energy has shown what it can do for America. The time is now for Congress to give the industry a green light to keep contributing jobs and clean electrons to America, by providing a stable business environment for further investment.” – AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan
A new project in Utah aims to help the state clean up its energy mix, using homegrown, long-term wind power agreements:
- Four new wind farms are poised for development in Utah after Rocky Mountain Power inked agreements with the companies to buy the power over 20 years. The farms, once in action, will have the capacity to produce 300 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 93,600 homes. Ultimately, funneling that renewable resource through Rocky Mountain Power's electrical grid will mean Utah has a cleaner energy portfolio because more wind power ultimately means fewer carbon emissions.
- "What is fabulous and unique about these power purchase agreements with these renewable resources is that they are for 20 years or more," said Sophie Hayes, staff attorney with Utah Clean Energy. "That means the prices are going to stay the same. You can't do that with many fuel resources because the costs go up and down. This resource is not subject to that volatility."
- "It is good to have a mix of different types of generation, because prices can fluctuate and you do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket. … The end result is that more wind and solar resources that are being built in the state."
Texas doesn’t appear to be letting go of its status as the country’s largest wind power producer anytime soon, with many more new megawatts on the way:
- Wind developers from around the globe have rushed into the Texas Panhandle and Gulf Coast at a pace not seen since the industry’s early days in the mid-2000s. More than 7,000 megawatts of new wind turbines are scheduled to be built by the end of next year, potentially increasing Texas’ wind power capacity by almost 60 percent. Whether developers will be able to carry through as advertised remains to be seen. But the volume of projects underway represents a dramatic acceleration for a Texas wind industry that has seen relatively modest growth since 2010.
- “To put it in perspective, 7,000 megawatts is more than any other state has installed right now,” said Emily Williams, senior policy analyst for the American Wind Energy Association.
- Already Texas grid operators are anticipating a point in the not-so-distant future where the new CREZ lines will be near capacity and will need to be expanded. Speaking on the phone from his private jet last week, energy investor T. Boone Pickens couldn’t help but notice how much had changed since he announced his plan to build the world’s largest wind farm in 2008 and promptly lost $150 million.
- “I was too early,” he said. “It’s happened to me before. You think I’d learn.”
Andrew Burger, “U.S. Wind Energy Could Double, But It’s Deja-vu All Over Again in Congress.” Triple Pundit. 21 April 2014.
Amy Joi O’Donoghue, “Utah wind power poised to increase.” Deseret News. 18 April 2014.
James Osborne, “Texas sees surge in wind-energy projects.” Dallas Morning News. 18 April 2014.