US wind energy industry doubles capacity in 2001
SAN FRANCISCO - After a banner year that doubled available wind power in the United States, an industry trade group warned this week that loss of a key federal tax credit could severely slow further wind power projects.
Last year, a record 1,694 megawatts (MW), or $1.7 billion worth of new generating equipment, was installed in 16 states, enough to power 475,0000 average American households, the Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said in a statement.
This was more than double the previous record year of 1999, when 732 MW was installed, and boosted the industry\'s total generating capacity by more than 60 percent over the amount in place a year earlier, it said.
\"More new wind generation was installed in a single state - Texas (over 900 MW) - than had ever been installed in the entire country in a single year. We are finally beginning to tap into wind energy\'s enormous potential,\" AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher said in the statement.
Current installed wind power capacity in the United States, spanning 26 of the nation\'s 50 states, now stands at 4,258 MW.
California is the state with the highest amount of installed capacity at 1,700 MW, while Texas is in close second place with 1,000 MW, said AWEA spokeswoman Kathy Belyeu.
Wind power has been the fastest-growing energy industry in the world over the past decade, sustaining a growth rate of about 25 percent, although it still provides less than one percent of the nation\'s electricity, she said.
CAUTION FOR 2002
Swisher said swift congressional approval of the extension of a key financial incentive is \"vital to continuing the industry\'s momentum.\"
The federal wind production tax credit (PTC), an important factor in financing new wind power installations, expired at the end of last year and was not renewed by Congress.
\"Wind is well on its way to providing 6 percent of our nation\'s electricity - as much as 25 million households use annually - by the year 2020,\" Swisher said.
\"That\'s a readily achievable goal, and we could easily exceed it. But for that to happen, we need strong and consistent policy support from our federal and state governments. The PTC works, and it works well, as the past year has shown. It should be extended as soon as possible.\"
AWEA lobbyists are now packaging the PTC bill with other tax credit bills. \"We expected 2002 to be at least as good as 2001, but now almost all the projects for 2002 are on hold and, if the PTC extension is not passed soon, they will probably be postponed,\" Belyeu said.
\"There are hundreds of megawatts\' worth of wind power projects, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in states like Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia, which will not go forward this year unless Congress reinstates the wind energy Production Tax Credit early in this year\'s session,\" Samuel Enfield, vice president of development for wind developer Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp., said in the statement.
AWEA members include turbine manufacturers, wind project developers and utilities.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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