Will states continue push for more renewable energy?

Farm Forum

Almost 300 shiny new wind turbines, part of the Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm, are now generating clean, renewable energy on a 66,000-acre site across four counties in southern Kansas. Each turbine has capacity to generate 1.6 megawatts (MW) of electricity or a total of 438 megawatts. That’s enough to supply electricity to 160,000 homes as far away as Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

The impact of the state’s largest wind farm rippled across the Kansas economy and other Midwestern states, too. A study by the Kansas City law firm of Polsinelli Shughart, conducted by companies connected to the wind industry, found that the leasing of land for the wind turbines brings $273 million in additional income for landowners and $208 million in revenue for community organizations and local and county governments.

Building the $800 million project also created 3,484 construction jobs, 262 operation and maintenance jobs, and 8,569 indirect jobs, the study noted. The wind farm is jointly owned by BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power.

Driven in part by state renewable energy targets, fourteen states have installed over 1,000MW of wind capacity, and a total of 37states now have installed at least some utility-scale wind power. With 9,728 MW of capacity, Texas is leading the way, followed by Iowa with 3,670 MW.

Wind set a new record in 2012 by installing 44 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in America, according to the Energy Information Administration, leading the electric sector compared with 30 percent for natural gas, and lesser amounts for coal and other sources.

Future unclear

But the future of wind energy in the U.S. is unclear, in part because of the low price of natural gas, which has made it an economical option to generate electricity and uncertainty over continuation of the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Congress included the long-sought extension of PTC and Investment Tax Credits for community and offshore projects in final passage of a bill to avert the “fiscal cliff” earlier this year. The bill would cover all wind projects that start construction in 2013.

America’s wind energy workers have been living under threat of the PTC’s expiration for over a year and layoffs had already begun, as companies idled factories because of a lack of orders for 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

“Uncertain federal policies have caused a “boom-bust” cycle in U.S. wind energy development for over a decade,” AWEA notes.

State requirements key

But wind and other forms of renewable energy have also been bolstered by state-based Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). While some have argued against state mandates, there’s no question that they have played a key role in developing a new clean energy economy.

Electric power generated under state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) represented 54 percent of all retail electricity sales in the United States in 2012, despite renewable power having virtually no share of the market 15 years ago, “


Dec2012Barbose.pdf” data from the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) shows.

An RPS requires that a certain percentage of the market be supplied by new renewable energy sources, including anaerobic digesters on animal operations, wind farms and solar energy facilities ? all found in rural areas across the country.

In other parts of the country where there are significant biomass

Image from Energy Information Administration