The federal government's September 2004 extension of the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) has, again, provided impetus for the wind industry in the United States.

“Many leading developers of wind projects now are encouraged to move forward with their plans to significantly increase the country's supply of wind electricity,” said Steve Zwolinski, chief executive officer of GE Energy's wind energy division.

The PTC provides a 1.8-cent per kilowatt hour credit (adjusted annually for inflation) for electricity produced during the first 10 years of a wind project's operation. With the extension, the PTC will remain in place through December of 2005, and is expected to spur a new wave of wind energy installations across the country.

According to American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Executive Director Randall Swisher, the extension “means that approximately $3 billion in wind energy investments forecast over the next several years are now back on track across the country.”

GE Energy, Atlanta, has secured contracts to supply more than 750MW of wind turbines for projects in the United States through 2005 and has received commitments for another 750MW. In total, the orders and commitments are valued at more than $1.3 billion.

In Europe and Asia, GE Energy's wind energy business has been expanding at a steady pace due to the adoption by many nations of government policy that supports the continued long-term growth of renewables. In Denmark, wind accounts for 20 percent of the country's electricity. Germany, a much larger nation, has achieved 5.9 percent. In the United States, wind energy provides less than 1 percent of the energy mix, which currently comes from coal (more than 50 percent), nuclear (20 percent), natural gas (18 percent), with hydropower making up most of the rest.

Under an aggressive growth scenario, according to the American Wind Energy Association, perhaps 6 percent of the nation's electricity could be supplied by wind by year 2020. Still, the United States is holder of the world's third largest wind power capacity, behind Germany and Spain, much smaller nations in terms of size.

The new contracts announced by GE Energy include projects in Iowa, Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon and California. All of the projects will use GE's 1.5MW wind turbines, which are the largest wind turbines assembled in the United States, and are the most widely sold and tested megawatt class wind turbines in the world.

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