Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Production Tax Credit For Wind Power?

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The U.S. wind industry is soaring now that last year’s uncertainty over renewal of the federal production tax credit for wind power is ancient history. A last-minute shift in Congress resulted in renewal of the credit on January 1st, and leading wind turbine manufacturer GE has just credited the credit with boosting its U.S. sales to the impressive 1 gigawatt (GW) mark in the past four months alone. The announcement came as a new GE “brilliant” wind turbine was unveiled at the industry’s WINDPOWER 2013 expo in Chicago earlier this week.

GE announces new brilliant wind turbine
Wind turbine courtesy of GE.

Wind Power On The Rise

To put GE’s 1 GW sales record in perspective, as of 2006 the entire U.S. wind industry totaled an installed capacity of only 10 GW, a milestone it reached after a long slog of 25 years according to the American Wind Energy Association.

It took only six more years to reach a total of 50 GW near the middle of 2012, and just a few months later the industry rammed through another 10 GW, for an all-time total of 60 GW by the end of the year.

By the way, the feds have a nifty animated map that gives you a state-by-state visual of wind industry growth in the U.S. since 1999, using stats compiled by AWEA.

The New GE Brilliant Wind Turbine

We’ve been following GE as it develops its “brilliant” wind turbine series, which  integrates energy storage with a data-driven system that micromanages an array of turbines in real time, literally second by second, to squeeze the most juice out of ever-changing winds and adjust for turbulence.

A self-monitoring capability is also a key feature of the system. It provides wind farm operators with early alerts on service and maintenance issues, helping to keep things humming along at peak efficiency while helping to avoid expensive repairs.

It’s all part of what GE calls the “industrial internet,” which is shorthand for integrating data resources with operational processes to achieve new efficiencies.

According to GE the first such turbine in the “brilliant” series, the 2.5-120, is 25 percent more efficient than its previous best effort in that class. The 2.5-120 turbine had a trial run in the Netherlands earlier this year and you can see it in action in Texas some time soon, as the company Invenergy is going to install three of them at its Mills County wind farm.

The Chicago unveiling was for the second in the series, the 1.7-100. It represents a six percent gain in power over GE’s previous best effort, and it is specifically designed to capture more energy from less wind speed.

What this all adds up to is the ability to fit more wind turbines into a smaller area and to coax more wind power out of regions that would otherwise be unsuitable for wind development. That bodes well for another wind industry growth spurt, especially since the tax credit renewal, though only good for one year, applies to any project in the pipeline in 2013.

Who’s Afraid of Intermittent Energy Sources?

Speaking of Texas, let’s also note for the record that this iconic heart of the U.S. oil industry is a long time wind industry leader (check out that aforementioned animated map), so it should be no surprise that the state is also a leading test bed for new utility scale energy storage technologies that will enable wind power to claim an increasing share of the nation’s power grid.

That includes the largest wind energy storage facility of its kind in the U.S. (hey, it’s Texas after all), a 36-megawatt behemoth engineered by the Texas-based company Xtreme Power attached to the Notrees Windpower wind farm.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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