United States

United States

Storm building after the lull -- New PTC rush starts

The US is set for a year of record wind power activity after the all-important federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expired on December 31. Although only 52MW was developed in 2000, this year's total is expected to exceed even the 800 MW of 1999. If all the projects go ahead--a big "if"--the US will see 1170 MW of new wind in 2001. In Texas alone, nearly 700 MW is in the works.

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Last year's wind development in the United States was a mere 52 MW, mostly in the two north-eastern states of New York and Pennsylvania and in Wyoming. But 2000 will almost certainly turn out to be the lull before a year of record activity. On December 31, wind power's all-important federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) expires -- and the 2001 wind rush is now on.

The new grid-connected projects in 2000 bring America's installed wind capacity to more than 2500 MW for the first time. The main causes of the slow progress last year were uncertainty about federal and state energy policy and the market -- and because the PTC, worth about $0.017/kWh for the first decade of a project's life, was allowed to expire in mid-1999 before being extended at the very end of the year. The hiatus meant that almost all development, planning and financing for new projects came to a screeching halt. Only seven were completed in five different states last year (table).

The largest new wind plant of 2000 was the 16.8 MW fourth phase of the Foote Creek project of Mitsubishi turbines by SeaWest. In New York, some 18 MW was installed in two projects in farming country using Vestas turbines. And Pennsylvania saw its second mid-sized project, 10.4 MW of Nordex turbines on a brown-field site in the Appalachians where coal was once strip-mined.

In Minnesota 3.3 MW of a Navitas Energy, formerly Northern Alternative Energy, project stated turning at Lake Benton at the end of the year. Two other small grid connected projects were also completed in 2000 (table).

This year's activity is likely to exceed even the 800 MW of 1999. If all the projects go ahead -- a big "if" -- the US will see 1170 MW of new wind in 2001. In Texas alone, nearly 700 MW is in the works, though numbers and names remain fluid. Texas' Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandates 2000 MW of clean energy by 2009.

Lone star lead

Construction of three Texas projects for almost 375 MW is under way. FPL's is developing 160 MW for Dallas utility TXU at Woodard Mountain, Pecos County, with Britain's Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and the local Austin based Cielo Energy. A second project, 82.5 MW for TXU and the Lower Colorado River Authority, is also proceeding in Pecos County. The developers are Orion Energy and National Wind Power of the UK. The third is Trent Mesa, 130 MW for TXU by American Electric Power Co of Ohio, which now owns Texas utility Central and Southwest. The plant will consist of Enron 1.3 MW turbines. On King Mountain, development of a 208 MW project is poised to start, once financing is finalised. The developers are RES and Cielo. Reliant Energy of Houston, not an equity player in the huge project, is to buy the power.

In the eastern US, Atlantic Renewable Energy expects to complete its 15 MW Mill Run Project in Pennsylvania by September and another 40 MW in Fenner, New York, Backbone County in West Virginia and Somerset County in Pennsylvania. Moving west, Navitas is to develop 100 MW in Minnesota for a combined wind-gas contract and in the same state huge utility Xcel is expected to announce the results of an 80 MW wind-only tender this month. That will complete a state mandate for 425 MW of wind by the end of this year.

Also in the Midwest, Northern Iowa Windpower, a joint venture which includes International Wind Corp of Dallas, is to develop 80 MW in Iowa (page 22). And in Wisconsin, Enron Wind is moving ahead on a 30 MW project at Eden, while FPL hopes to install its delayed 25 MW project at Eden. The Midwest's largest project, if it materialises, will be in Kansas where 100 MW is being proposed as the state's first wind farm. It could be developed by Enron Wind or Clipper Energy.

California is the wild card. No development is expected until the energy crisis is fixed. But the possibilities are tantalising. A 61 MW project by Whitewater Energy in San Gorgonio, which was to be completed in 2000, is now to be completed this year. Enron Wind has plans for three projects totalling 72.75 MW in San Gorgonio and Tehachapi. SeaWest is planning 44.4 MW in San Gorgonio and Venture Pacific 20 MW. The lion's share of the new capacity would be FPL's 200 MW plant near Mojave. The company also plans another 30 MW in Tehachapi. In Riverside County, Energy Unlimited is slated to build 16.9 MW.

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