Despite continued uncertainty over a key federal tax credit and a steep drop in wind farms reaching production, the wind industry ended 2013 with a record number of projects under construction.
The United States had 61,110 megawatts of wind capacity by the end of the year, the American Wind Energy Association said in its annual report released Thursday. Wind capacity was 3,134 megawatts in Oklahoma as the state remained in sixth place.
One megawatt can power about 250 homes during times of peak electric demand.
Nationally, installed capacity fell 92 percent last year to 1,087 megawatts, largely from uncertainty over the federal production tax credit. The incentive was renewed at the beginning of 2013, but the delay meant installations didn’t pick up again until the middle of the year.
Wind provided more than 4 percent of the electricity generated in the country in 2013, the American Wind Energy Association said. Oklahoma was in fourth place for electricity generated from wind, with more than 10.8 million megawatt-hours. That’s enough to power about 1 million homes.
“Increasingly, America is powered by wind energy,” said Tom Kiernan, the association’s CEO. “As utilities and Americans become more familiar with this affordable and reliable energy source, they want more of it.”
The pipeline of wind projects began to fill back up in the second half of 2013, and the year ended with more than 12,000 megawatts under construction across the country, the association said.
By the end of 2013, two wind projects were under construction in Oklahoma. Enel Green Power NA owns the 150-megawatt Origin wind farm planned for Murray and Carter counties in southern Oklahoma. TradeWind Energy Inc. started work on the 136-megawatt Mustang Run development in Osage County.
In a phone interview, TradeWind CEO Rob Freeman said the company is excited about its Oklahoma projects. TradeWind recently announced power purchase agreements with the Grand River Dam Authority for Mustang Run and another wind farm, the 98-megawatt Breckinridge project near Enid. Last year, the company signed a power purchase agreement with Public Service Co. of Oklahoma for 200 megawatts from its Goodwell development in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Five state projects
“We had a tremendous finish to 2013, and in Oklahoma specifically,” Freeman said. “We have five projects that we are involved with and expect to be building in Oklahoma this year and next year. One is an acquisition and the other four are TradeWind projects.”
Including already operating wind farms, TradeWind expects to have about 700 megawatts of wind capacity in Oklahoma by 2015.
Freeman said he was surprised by efforts in the Oklahoma Legislature to put a moratorium on wind farm developments in the eastern half of the state. Senate Bill 1440, by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, passed the Senate but didn’t get a committee hearing in the House by this week’s deadline.
“I didn’t expect to see that from Oklahoma,” he said. “Generally, Oklahoma has been such a wind industry-friendly state. The general feeling from a legislative perspective in most of the states we do business in is these matters are best left to individual landowners and local communities to sort through.”
Kiernan, with the trade association, said the wind industry’s growth has benefited manufacturers, as well as provided lease payments to farmers and ranchers. But the association warned it could be at risk of another “boom-and-bust” cycle if Congress doesn’t renew the renewable electricity production tax credit. The incentive expired at the end of 2013 for the fifth time since it began in 1992.
Freeman said he’s lived through several of the production tax credit “cliffs” during his time in the wind industry.
“It’s hard to predict, but if history is any indication, it will get done,” Freeman said. “It is very much a bipartisan issue. There are a bunch of folks who try to turn it into a political football, but in reality, we’ve got guys on both sides of the aisle. Hopefully, in cool of the morning at some point, we can all be talking about long-term policy for our industry, which is what we desperately need.”