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No New Wind Farm Construction In PNW This Year

May 7, 2013 | Northwest Public Radio
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Courtney Flatt

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  • Equipment is ready to be installed at Palouse Wind, which wrapped up construction last November -- before a tax credit was set to expire. Uncertainty surrounding the credit is one reason no new wind farms being built this year in the Pacific Northwest. credit: Courtney Flatt
Equipment is ready to be installed at Palouse Wind, which wrapped up construction last November -- before a tax credit was set to expire. Uncertainty surrounding the credit is one reason no new wind farms being built this year in the Pacific Northwest. | credit: Courtney Flatt | rollover image for more

You may have seen wind turbines springing up all over the Pacific Northwest in the past decade. So far this year, the region’s wind industry has faced a different story.

Not a single new wind farms is under construction in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been that way since 2013 began. Compare that to last year’s boom, which increased wind capacity in the region by about 20 percent.

That’s according to an update on wind energy by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Gillian Charles is an energy policy analyst with the council.

“More wind will be developed. It just may not be at the speed that it was in the past 10 years. We’ve gone from zero to 100 pretty quickly here,” Charles said.

She said there are a couple big reasons for the construction halt.

One: Uncertainty clouded the wind industry last year. That’s because the production tax credit was set to expire. The credit pays wind producers for the amount of energy they generate. At the eleventh hour, Congress extended the credit for one more year. But reluctant wind companies have yet to pick construction back up.

Two: The amount of power people used last year went down. It’s forecasted to stay down.

Three: The Northwest sells excess power to California, but a 2011 bill capped the amount of energy that can be imported into the state. Council officials say the Northwest may have already approached the limit.

Wind power generates most of the electricity that can be counted toward states’ renewable energy standards. Up to 90 percent of that energy comes from wind farms. Right now, existing hydropower cannot be measured in the standards.

Clarification: May 8, 2013. This story was updated to reflect the fact that existing hydropower is not counted in renewable portfolio standards, where wind leads the eligible renewable energy.

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