WASHINGTON (AP) — More than $9 billion in investments helped the nation's wind-generation capacity grow by 45 percent last year, and 2008 is poised to match those levels, a trade group said Thursday.
But without the prompt extension of a tax credit set to expire in December, the American Wind Energy Association would not provide an equally rosy outlook for 2009.
Tax breaks for various clean-energy industries, including wind, along with language requiring investor-owned utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, were left out of the energy bill President Bush signed last month.
''The U.S. wind industry calls on Congress and the president to quickly extend the (federal production tax credit) — the only existing U.S. incentive for wind power — in order to sustain this remarkable growth along with the manufacturing jobs, fresh economic opportunities, and reduction of global warming pollution that it provides,'' Randall Swisher, the wind association's executive director, said in a statement.
The amount of new U.S. wind capacity installations tanked in 2004, the last time a production tax credit expired.
Wind power is attractive to utilities because of its low cost compared with other renewable sources, especially solar power, but the ability to generate electricity from wind is limited.
Some wind projects, including the nation's first proposed offshore development, have spurred controversy over their potential environmental effects. But a draft environmental report by the federal Minerals Management Service this week said plans by developer Cape Wind Associates to build 130 windmills across 25 miles of federal waters in Nantucket Sound would have mostly ''minor'' or ''negligible'' effects on wildlife, ocean navigation, fishing and tourism.
Energy companies last year installed wind turbines with the ability to generate 5,244 megawatts of power, boosting the nation's total wind capacity to 16,818 megawatts spanning 34 states, the wind association said.
U.S. wind farms will generate just over 1 percent of the nation's electricity supply this year, and the estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours of wind energy is enough to power the equivalent of more than 4.5 million homes, according to the trade group.
Texas maintained its position as the state with the largest wind generating capacity in 2007, followed by California, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington, according to the trade group, whose members include Florida-based FPL Group Inc., the nation's largest wind power developer.
Major makers of wind turbines include Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems and General Electric Co. While developers are sold out for the year, the trade group expects more companies to enter the market and increase turbine availability.
Earlier this week, GE's Energy Financial Services said it will increase its investment in renewable energy by 50 percent, to $6 billion by 2010 because of rising demand for alternative power.
The GE unit also said it's investing in wind-farm projects in Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas owned by Horizon Wind Energy LLC, a Houston-based developer that is a subsidiary of Energias de Portugal SA.