Wind Energy Prospects Blowing Hot and Cold

Retroactive reinstatement of a production tax credit this past fall was a breath of fresh air for wind power proponents. The credit, which provides tax incentives for U.S. wind-power installations, expired on Dec. 31, 2003. The reinstatement is retroactive to that date and effective through Dec. 31, 2005.

12/01/2004


Retroactive reinstatement of a production tax credit this past fall was a breath of fresh air for wind power proponents. The credit, which provides tax incentives for U.S. wind-power installations, expired on Dec. 31, 2003. The reinstatement is retroactive to that date and effective through Dec. 31, 2005 .

Wind-energy proponents say they expect the credit's reinstatement could help boost industry levels back up to 2003 levels, when installation capacity reached 1,687 MW, according to American Wind Energy Association figures.

However, tax credit or not, one of the largest U.S. projects under consideration—the nation's first offshore wind farm, proposed for the Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts' Cape Cod—continues to face strong local opposition. Attention of both supporters and opponents of the project is now turned toward a 4,000-page draft environmental impact statement, recently completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers . The report's release has been held up by Pentagon officials and no schedule has been provided of its eventual release. Numerous Freedom of Information Act requests were filed late September seeking access to the document.

But internationally, implementation of wind power generation progresses. Canada's Hydro-Quebec has announced the largest single wind-turbine order in the industry's history—a 660-turbine purchase from GE Energy, with an anticipated capacity of 990 MW. The units will be installed over six years at several wind farms throughout Quebec province.

In Germany , workers are finishing up installation of what is being called the largest wind turbine to date. The 5-MW unit, with 61.5-meter blades, is scheduled to begin operating by the end of 2004.

Russian engineers, however, are working on systems at the other end of the size spectrum, developing vertical-axis turbines intended for small, off-grid applications, such as small villages and remote ranches. The project is a joint effort between Russia's Makeyev State Rocket Center and the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory , as part of the continuing Inititiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which taps the knowledge of the former Soviet Union's military scientists. A 30-ft.-tall, 3-kW prototype is now being tested, along with a 1-kW unit that can be loaded onto a car or strapped to a horse.





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