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American wind energy rebounded in 2014 but will this continue?

Windpower 2015 was held in Orlando from 18 to 21 May this year. There were close to 400 exhibitors, a little less than last year in Las Vegas. At the time of writing I do not know the exact number of attendees but I had the impression that attendance was better than in recent years. As always the manufactures attracted the most visitors to their booths and launched new products at the show. GE launched its Digital Wind Farm ecosystem, a dynamic, connected and adaptable wind energy ecosystem that pairs turbines with the digital infrastructure for the wind industry. The technology could boost a wind farm’s energy production by up to 20%. Siemens launched a new wind turbine especially for the US market. The new turbine features a 120-metre rotor. The product was developed with an eye towards increasing energy production for sites with medium to low wind conditions, which are prevalent in markets within the Americas region. At wind speeds ranging from 6 to 8.5 metres per second, the Siemens SWT-2.3-120 can yield an increase of nearly 10% in AEP compared to its predecessor, the SWT-2.3-108. Serial production of the SWT-2.3-120 will commence in the USA in 2017. During the show we spoke with many people and have gathered ideas for future articles about lubrication, resource assessment, novel floating foundations designs and much more. Keep an eye on future issues to stay informed about the latest technological developments.

The impact of Production Tax Credit in the USA
Installation-wise the US industry is doing very well at the moment. Strong growth in the US wind energy industry accelerated during the first quarter of 2015, with a near-record 13,600MW of generating capacity under construction across 100 projects in 23 states. Over US$ 23 billion worth of new wind farms are in development now in the USA. There is a reason why this year will be a good year – the again expired federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). The expired PTC underpins 13.4GW of growth in 2015 and 2016, preceding policy uncertainty and a 77% downturn year-on-year in 2017. Last time this happened was in 2013 when the downturn was 92% from 2012 when there was only a brief lapse of the PTC at the end of 2012.

Polls show that the majority of the public is in favour of wind energy and a bipartisan group of governors are urging congress to extend the PTC. But right now it looks like not much will change in the near future. So far there are no clear signs for a long-term policy. A long-term policy is the only way to establish a sustainable industry. And a long-term policy does not mean subsidising wind energy for ever but making a plan how to phase subsidies out slowly so that the industry is able to prepare itself for the future and can build a sound business case.

Now people are waiting with developing new plans because the government might hold a bag of money under their noses … or not!

Obviously long-term policies are not only necessary in the USA but are also needed globally. Let’s all continue to get this message out so maybe we can reach the people who are really in charge and hope they have the guts to change things so we can work on a sustainable industry and world.

Enjoy reading,

Floris Siteur

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