Clean Power

Published on August 9th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


How Congress Messes With The Wind Industry (Charts)

August 9th, 2014 by  

Anyone who follows the US wind energy industry knows all too well how US Congress has consistently disrupted it. The wind energy production tax credit (PTC) is equivalent to what other energy industries have coded into law. The wind industry, on the other hand, has had it implemented for 1-3 years at a a time and renewal has been left in limbo several years up until the very end of the year. Or, in some cases, the wind industry has been left at the alter as the PTC hasn’t been renewed by the end of the year.

It’s ironic that an industry widely supported by the public, Republicans and Democrats alike, gets messed with so much while fossil fuel industries and the nuclear industry get unquestioned support. Tens of thousands of jobs put on the line time and time again, some of them lost forever to the whims of political positioning and selfishness.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently released the US Wind Industry Second Quarter 2014 Market Report. It is quite concise, so I encourage you to go check it out. 5 charts in particular stood out to me, and a couple of them stimulated that rant above. Here are the charts (along with a little more commentary):

Getting Messed With

US wind power capacity by quarter US Wind Industry

This first chart shows annual cumulative wind power capacity as well as annual and then quarterly capacity additions. At this scale, you almost can’t see the capacity additions from 2013 and the 1st half of 2014. 2012 was a record year, in no small part because wind energy developers rushed their projects through by December 31st (note the big green bar in the 4th quarter of 2013) because they weren’t sure if the PTC would be around come January 1st (it wasn’t, but then it did get renewed within days… with a small but significant change).

US Wind Power Capacity Installations by Quarter US Wind Industry

This chart takes out the cumulative capacity totals so that you can more clearly see quarterly variations. The stark contrast between the 4th quarter of 2012 and everything that follows is telling, and especially the difference between it and the first three quarters of 2013.

Wind Power Under Construction US Wind Industry

I think this chart is the most interesting, as it adds in wind power capacity under construction as well as new wind power capacity under construction. The “small change” made to the PTC when it was renewed at the beginning of 2013 was that it said wind power projects eligible for the PTC had to be under construction by the end of 2015, rather than completed by that time. The result was a gigantic spike in new projects, a ton of projects still under construction, and few projects completed. Of course, boom and bust isn’t great for an industry, and neither is being forced to start as many projects as possible and let them wait to be completed so that you can start others. But that’s essentially what Congress has ordered.


Big Texas

US Wind Power Capacity by State Texas Wind Industry

Aside from all of that, it was interesting to see how much Texas leads in wind power capacity, as well as 2014 capacity additions. California and Iowa are also quite a bit above the other states, but wow, look at Texas.

Wind Power Under Construction Texas Wind Industry

This map up new wind power capacity under construction follows that up, showing that the trend continues.

Ironically, Texas have a popular saying, “Don’t mess with Texas.” A lot of people in Texas are certainly getting messed with. Ironically, most of them are probably Republicans, getting messed with by Republican congresspeople.

Related stories:

Top Wind Power Countries Per Capita

Top Wind Power Countries Per GDP

Wind Energy Facts

World Wind Power Poised to Bounce Back after Slowing in 2013

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Diogenes60025

    Windy crybabies whine they don’t get enough goodies from the public purse. Fossil fuels and fossil power generation do not receive any subsidies. However, they do receive capital recovery allowances, like depreciation and depletion.

    All industries, including wind and solar, are eligible for capital recovery allowances. In order to receive capital recovery allowances, a company must have already invested its own capital, and be in a taxable position (profitable). Sad to say, few wind projects qualify–and its not the fault of Congress.

    To equate refundable subsidies, loan guarantees, and non-monetary benefits like renewable portfolio standards is rank dishonesty. Wind power is simply too costly, too intermittent, and too disruptive to be considered a viable source of base-load power. It will NEVER prosper without open-ended and interminable subsidies. Of all the thermal power generation methods, only nuclear power receives subsidies. This practice should also be discontinued.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Someone took Diogenes into a magnificent house and warned him not to spit, whereupon, having cleared his throat, he spat into the man’s face, being unable, he said, to find a meaner receptacle.

      Diogenes was a nasty character, taking dumps in the theater and masturbating in public, but he did put some effort into supporting the truth.

      In this case Diogenes distorts. Or perhaps this Diogenes is simply ignorant.

      Let’s shine a lantern on the facts, shall we?

      We can start with the public born costs which you do not mention – military, health, climate, and local pollution costs. We can then add depletion allowances. Then we can move on to foreign tax credits, credit for production of non-conventional fuels, and oil and gas exploration and development expensing.

      Coal does not receive federal subsidies? Well, if you don’t consider low cost financing, tax credits as part of the economic stimulus, and low cost funding for the rail lines that haul coal.

      Then we can move on to the fact that wind is rapidly becoming our cheapest source of electricity. It appears that wind dropped to about 3.5 cents per kWh (non-subsidized) in 2013. We should have that number confirmed within the month.

      Three and a half cents is cheaper than natural gas, the second cheapest new capacity source.

      Wind is variable, but an important source. We simply design our grids around the variable nature of wind and solar.

      Disruptive? Yes, very disruptive when it comes to the profit stream for the coal industry.

      • Doug Lass

        I agree that wind power kills birds and bats, but why hasn’t some one come with a guard of some type that prevents these animals getting killed while still making wind power effective?

        • Bob_Wallace

          The bird kill numbers are very, very small. Coal and nuclear kill more birds per MWh of electricity produced.

          Additionally, the rate of bird kills is falling as the industry learns how to minimize the problem.

    • Diogenes60025

      If wind power is so great, how come it can’t make it without BIG subsidies? How come 250 windmills cease functioning each month for various reasons? Why do wind farms macerate birds & bats, and make people sick?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Wind is very close to being subsidy free. That will make it the first of our energy sources to operate without subsidies.

        250 out of 250,000,000? 0.001%. Stuff does wear out. Some of our wind turbines are now 30 years old.

        As for the bird/bat/making people sick stuff – FUD.

        • Diogenes60025

          Are you alleging there are 250 million commercial windmills in operation?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry. I made a pre-coffee mistake. At the end of 2012 we were at about 225,000.

            I’ll re-figure at 0.1% per month needing replacement or repair. One would expect that number to rise to roughly 0.2% per month as turbines age out after approximately 40 years of service.

  • rollzone

    hello. Anybody else notice the oil developed states are building the wind industry?

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s highly likely that the federal wind PTC is dead, and the solar equivalent twon’t be renewed either when it runs out. At that point the messaging of the two industries will shift from a parochial “give us our tax breaks, same as oil and gas” to “now let’s get rid of all those fat cat energy tax breaks”. That is much more powerful.

  • Choose limited federal government.
    Stop making millionaires out of our politicians and lobbyists.
    Stop increasing the power of connected corporations.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I don’t want to turn my life over to local yahoos. Look at some of the jerks we’ve got running state and county governments.

      Get the money out of campaigns and we’ll get a better quality of office holder and the really good ones we have now can spend more time working on problems as opposed to having to scrounge money for their next election.
      We’ve put our elected officials in a real bind. The ones who want to do the most for ordinary folks are forced to kiss the butts of the very rich and big corporations.

      • Maybe you have not noticed how messed up the federal yahoos and jerks are and how much more power they have.

        Getting money out of campaigns will stifle speech and just create corruption. Better to just make contributions transparent.

        To remove money from politics you have to get rid of what attracts money to politics.
        Which is the Tax Code and excessive regulation.

        The voter wants regulation and taxes on business and the rich, which causes business and the rich to spend money on politics to influence taxes and regulations. Blame the voter.

        Excessive regulations and a convoluted Tax Code are the seeds of an oligarchy; they are the sperm and egg.

        If you count on the government to do it or over regulate it, it will be hijacked by special interest groups (Unions, Financial Industry, Oil Industry, Farmers, Multi-National Corporations, Religious Groups, Environmentalists, AARP, etc.), so it invites more corruption than solutions. People are given a false sense of security. A very good reason to keep government to a minimum and one of the reasons the Constitution is set up to constrain it. This regulatory capture also increases the barriers to competition, further hurting citizens/consumers.

        Blame the voter for the existence of lobbyists.

        First step to a solution:

        Support politicians that promise to get rid of laws and regulations that are obsolete or ineffective, instead of the ones that promise to enact more laws and regulations.

        Second and third steps:

        Repeal the 16th Amendment, abolish the IRS and the Tax Code, and enact the Fair Tax. Less money will go into politics because there will be no Tax Code to manipulate. There will be much less for the special interest groups to hijack.

        Reduce regulations to the minimum necessary. Less money will go into politics because there will be less to manipulate. There will be less for the special interest groups to hijack.

        Fourth step:
        Pass and ratify an Amendment to the Constitution to require a 60% supermajority in the House to pass any new legislation and a simple majority to repeal any legislation.

        Choose limited federal government. Stop making millionaires out of our politicians and lobbyists. Stop increasing the power of connected corporations.

        • Steve Grinwis

          I love how some Americans equate the ability of the wealthy to buy elections with free speech. It’s adorable.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Just a couple of things.

          1) This is not a political site, it’s all about renewable energy and limiting human caused climate change.

          2) I think your ideas are largely worthless, but since this is not a political site we won’t spend time discussing them.

          So back on topic, please.

  • Ben Helton

    Good article;

    It should be noted that wind energy started killing electric rates in the middle of the night. Despite some local initiatives still being there, investors have a hard time jumping on board with killing these prices even more. Some places trade as low as $20 / MWh in hours when wind is peaking. It needs to be more like $50-$70 MWh for wind to continue growing the rate it was between 2010-2012.

    We really need something to do with all of the power being generated for this trend to change.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If wind is actually ~3.5c/kWh, $35/MWh, as it seems then wind should be rockin’. A 20 year PPA at ~4c is a great hedge against variable NG prices. We seeing utilities signing 5c solar PPAs as a hedge against volatile gas prices.

      Take a look at where NGCC prices are now that we’ve burned our way through the “drilling gold rush” boom surplus.

      We’ve got things to do with the power. We’re closing a couple hundred coal plants, a couple dozen nuclear plants are close to bankruptcy, and EV sales are rising.

      • Matt

        Even post FF closing there are lots of uses that TOD proving would drive. Thermal storage of AC, cool at night use when power price high. We have only taken tiny baby steps into the world of load shifting; mainly because there is no $ reason for individuals to even try.

    • Ronald Brakels

      A carbon price is the most economically efficient way to encourage the building of renewable capacity and reduce fossil fuel use. However, the US doesn’t appear likely to get one in the short term. Giving a subisidy to renewables is a second best solution, but far better than doing nothing. And of course the subsidy should be clear, consistent, and reliable. But what I see the US actually doing with wind subsidies makes me think that Soviet mind control experiments from the 70s are finally starting to work and cause Americans to destroy the efficient operation of markets.

  • Matt

    Lets see Bush 1 and 2 are both “from” Texas, and Texas has a bunch of reps in the house (mostly Republicans). And there are big manufacture companies building these big machines (GE, etc) also more than a few Republicans. Surely it is time they stood up for they states. Maybe they need to start a moment. Republicans aren’t just full of gas, we got wind too.

    • OutsideofWashington

      Forget about Bush 1 and Bush 2 when your referring to the Republican’s…that’s all in the past. Looking forward I say the next Republican to look forward to is Rant Paul. By 2024, post Hillary, the only Republican of today that will still be living will be Rant Paul. All the current gas beens like M’Cain,Graham, Washington Redskin Boehner, McConnell will have died off.

Back to Top ↑