Recently, published figures show that the wind energy industry is bouncing back from a disappointing 2010. The first half of this year shows a 72 per cent increase in generating capacity compared to the same time last year.
However the grim, if not predictable spectre of the Production Tax Credit renewal is looming, and could threaten to derail further growth by creating an unpredictable environment for investors and potentially damage the supply chain for planned projects. Already this year, manufacturers have been forced to make lay-offs as orders for 2013 are scant; much of the investment and industry biding its time until the future of the PTC, due for renewal in 2012, is secure.
Throughout the economic turmoil of the last few years, wind energy has demonstrated that it can buck the trend and enjoy the kind of growth that has escaped other energy industries. It is this, as well as the realization at a local level that wind energy can stimulate an economy and provide skilled, well-paid jobs, that candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties have produced a letter urging the President to support further development. The letter highlights the need for consistency in energy policy, and urges that further to there being no delay in the PTC renewal, the extension should run for at least seven years to reduce uncertainty and drive market growth.
Unfortunately, the effects of this uncertainty are already being felt, with greater interest in alternative energy sources growing in prominence. Shale gas is one such source which has stolen a march on wind, according to Ned Hall, president of AES Wind Generation, "With the lack of an energy policy that motivates wind, the disruptive nature of shale gas has changed the map again and there is a rush back to gas". Hall points out that as a result of this shift, much of AES' business is currently focused abroad - an issue the company would clearly like to address; "we are a U.S.-based company, and right now most of our time and effort as wind developers is focused outside the U.S."Download