Congress successfully took the wind out of wind energy’s sails last year
America’s fossil fuel-smitten Congress helped China blow the U.S. out of the water last year when it came to installing new wind energy farms.
A little more than 16 gigawatts of new wind capacity came online in China in 2013 — nearly half of the 36 gigawatts installed around the world. Compare that with a little more than 1 gigawatt that was installed in the U.S. — down alarmingly from 13 gigawatts the year before.
That means American wind installations plummeted in a single year despite the falling price of wind energy, which is becoming lower than the price of electricity produced by burning natural gas in some parts of the country.
Dude, where’s our wind? Well, the latest figures were calculated by Navigant Research, and it blamed a “politically divided Congress” in a new paywalled report for the faltering wind growth in the U.S.
Congress allowed wind energy tax credits to blow away at the end of 2013 — so why would 2013’s installation figures be so bleak? According to the report, it was all about uncertainty. Lawmakers “failed to extend tax incentives in time to positively impact the 2013 development and construction cycle.”
(Needless to say, Congress, which failed to extend the tax credits amid fossil fuel lobbyist whining that the wind energy industry needs to stand on its own feet, failed to do anything about the billions of dollars in subsidies doled out to fossil fuel companies every year.)
The new report contains some bleak news for those accustomed to reading about runaway growth in renewables. Less wind capacity was installed around the world in 2013 than had been the case in 2012 — the first time that such a decline has been recorded in eight years.
Still, thing are looking bright — particularly for the emerging offshore wind sector. Thirteen new offshore projects added 1.7 gigawatts of capacity last year — up by 50 percent compared with 2012. And 6.6 gigawatts of new offshore capacity are currently under construction.
The researchers forecast that the sector will rebound globally this year, with new installations expected to better last year’s effort by 30 percent. By the end of 2014, the researchers say wind energy will be meeting 2.9 percent of the world’s demand for electricity — a figure they expect to rise to 7.3 percent by 2018.