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March 18, 2008

Community Wind Faces Financing & Market Obstacles

community wind, wind energy, wray, community-based wind, cooperative wind, americas wind energy corporationThe largest wind turbine in the world owned by a school district is about to go online in Wray, CO. Apparently, the parts for the Americas Wind Energy turbine came from all over the world to tiny Wray, population 2100 and falling. The blades came from Spain, the generator from Holland, the tower from South Korea and the copper wire came from Canada. Ironically, even Americas Wind Energy itself is not an American company, it is Canadian.

After originally deciding on the size and type of turbine needed, the community found they couldn’t buy just one turbine in that size range. Because of the bottleneck in American wind turbine production, the large wind farms and energy development companies are dominating the turbine purchasing market, trying to get their projects online before the end of 2008 when the production tax credit (PTC) is currently set to expire. The current market uncertainty is favoring the large turbine orders, whilst moving small orders to the fringes.

It is possible this bottleneck will loosen as Vestas has just opened its first North American turbine blade facility in Windsor, CO. The wind giant has recently taken an order (pdf) for 109 turbines in the US that they said would not affect any of their existing orders. However, E.ON Climate and Renewable Energy, who placed the order, will not be scheduled to have all 109 turbines up and running by the end of 2008. Their project is not projected to be finished until the middle of 2009.

It is my guess that even if the PTC does not pass this year, it will pass at the beginning of next year, when there is a strong chance there will be a Democrat in the White, and maybe even a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It is also quite likely that Congress would extend the PTC retroactively back to the beginning of 2009, as if it never expired. Even if that is the case, there is certain to be some downturn in the renewable energy industry as investors may get a little sheepish without the security of a production tax credit this year.

Fort Morgan Times
Photo: Americas Wind Energy (AWE 52-900)


Anonymous said...

I work for Windustry, a MN-based non-profit that promotes and supports community wind energy nation-wide. We've seen many projects dealing with similar hurdles, and are always curious to see how different projects deal with getting their hands on a turbine.

We're hosting the only national conference that deals with community wind next month in Albany, NY. It's a great chance for community wind folks to meet, chat, and network, as well as learn about new strategies for putting together a community wind project. More info on the webpage:


Tim Hurst said...

Thanks, Marin. I hope to be attending the community wind conference.


Simmons said...

Awesome site - I've added you to my (green) blogroll. I'd appreciate it if you linked back. Thanks!