Industry, govt. officials point to 50 GW wind milestone in call for PTC extension

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Kicking off a daylong gathering here devoted to promoting clean energy, the wind industry touted hitting a new milestone in installed capacity as industry representatives and their supporters in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill called for an extension of a key tax break for wind electricity generation.

With the first wind farm in Nevada coming online tomorrow, total installed capacity in the United States has reached 50 gigawatts, enough to power 13 million homes, said Denise Bode, head of the American Wind Energy Association. Bode told reporters at a news conference here that the industry was able to hit that capacity — double the 25 GW that was installed four years ago — because of a consistent ability to rely on the production tax credit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appeared alongside Bode and others at the news conference this morning to open the fifth National Clean Energy Summit, which Reid sponsors along with the liberal Center for American Progress and other groups.

Reid said he was “very confident” that Congress would extend the PTC before the end of the year, adding, “We may even get this done before the election.”

The Senate Finance Committee last week approved a broad package to renew temporary incentives, commonly known as “extenders,” including a one-year PTC extension with modifications and several other clean energy tax breaks. The bipartisan Finance Committee vote bodes well for the package’s chances on the Senate floor, but House lawmakers have maintained that they are unlikely to take up an extenders bill until after the election (E&E Daily, Aug. 3).

The 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour PTC, which is set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts, was first implemented in 1992 and has lapsed several times since, followed by sharp drops in industry activity. But the credit has been consistently in place since 2007, spurring an uptick in industry activity and a growth in American manufacturing.

“One of the reasons we were able to double this in the last four years is because for the last five years we have not allowed the PTC to expire,” Bode said.

Tomorrow, Pattern Energy Group LP will begin producing energy at its Spring Valley wind project, a 66-turbine, 150-megawatt facility near Ely. It will be the first commercial wind facility in Nevada. Pattern reached a settlement agreement with environmentalists earlier this year to step up efforts to monitor how the project would affect a bat species that roosts nearby (Greenwire, April 18).

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar touted the completion of the facility, which is located on federal land, calling it a good example of cooperation between industry and state and federal regulators to protect wildlife.