Illinois 5th in wind power installations in 2012

Source: By Julie Wernau, Chicago Tribune • Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Illinois wind power

Wind turbines from the Lee/DeKalb Wind Energy Center, in Lee, Ill., measuring approximately rotate at sunrise in a 2010 photo. (Stacey Wescott/Tribune / January 30, 2013)

In what shaped up to be a record wind for American wind, Illinois was fifth in the nation for new wind installations in 2012, the American Wind Energy Association said Wednesday.

The state installed 491 turbines, or about 820 MW of capacity, and is fourth in the nation for wind power installed.

In the U.S. overall, nearly two-thirds of the more than 13,000 MW of new wind power in 2012 came online in the fourth quarter to take advantage of a wind production tax credit tht expired at the end of 2012. Ultimately, the 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour tax credit was extended for one year as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal signed in the New Year. While the tax credit generally is reserved for wind farms that are generating electricity, the extender package allows wind farms under construction in 2013 to take advantage of the tax credit.

Still, industry watchers expect 2013 to be a difficult year for wind. In 2012, in light of the tax credit’s looming expiration, developers stopped placing orders for wind-related machinery for projects that were to come online in 2013 . AWEA said its members are receiving orders and calls now for equipment that will take six to nine months to deliver. The lobbying group would not provide its projections for installations in 2013. Some experts have forecasted a drop of as much as 75 percent, along with massive layoffs.

AWEA said 85 percent of the projects that came online in 2012 relied on long-term power purchase agreements from utilities and others who agreed to purchase the wind power the turbines would produce. In Illinois only one wind farm developer started selling into the merchant power market. The rest are selling power to large energy users such as Heartland Community College or to utilities Commonwealth Edison, Tennessee Valley Authority and Ameren Illinois.