Wednesday, May 6, 2009

U.S. windpower industry eyes government mandate for growth

From Reuters:

* Investment in wind energy to be down in 2009

* Recovery seen in 2010, depending on natgas

* Consolidation seen in wind turbine industry

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO, May 5 (Reuters) - Lost financing, low prices for natural gas and political uncertainty have stymied a potential boom in the U.S. wind power industry this year.

Investment in new wind power capacity that exploded from $3 billion in 2005 to $17 billion in 2008 was projected to fall to $13 billion this year. The fallout for the U.S. industry, the world's largest producer of wind power at 28,000 Megawatts, could usher in a period of consolidation, analysts said.

Financial institutions no longer provide credit to wind farms based on the tax incentives and projected electricity revenues, and natural gas prices have tumbled from $12 per million BTU to under $4.

The industry is now counting on a government bailout of a different sort -- legislation that would mandate that 25 percent of the country's electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2025, up from around 7 percent now, with wind making up 1.5 percent.

"To get to the levels of energy that we're talking about, we have to produce a wind turbine every 15 minutes for the next 20 years," Vic Abate of General Electric Co, the largest U.S. wind turbine supplier, said in an interview on Tuesday on the sidelines of an industry conference.

GE had $6.7 billion in wind-related sales last year. The company has built and installed 12,000 wind turbines, which can cost $3 million each and provide power to up to 1,700 homes....MORE