Monday, August 13, 2012

Is The Answer Blowin' in the Wind?

Brazos Wind Farm, Texas.  Source: Wikipedia Commons.
Wind power in the United States exploded in the past few years, with capacity doubling since 2008.

Source: Wikipedia Commons
It was a boom time and jobs were plentiful.  According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are about 400 companies generating wind turbine components and about 75,000 jobs in the wind industry.   I have a number of friends who migrated to wind power jobs during this period.  For meteorologists and fluid dynamicists, opportunities existed in wind prospecting, farm design, turbine design, forecasting, you name it.

However, as can be seen in the graph above, installed new capacity peaked in 2009 and The Guardian reports today that while total US wind power capacity eclipsed 50 Gigawatts this year, layoffs are occurring throughout the sector because of a possible expiration of a wind power production tax credit at the end of 2012.

Extension of the wind power production tax credit is presently under consideration by Congress and it has become a subject of considerable political debate as it falls in the crosshairs of energy policy, tax policy, alternative energy subsidies, deficit concerns, etc. (see articles here and here).  The resulting industry uncertainty is stalling investment, delaying projects, and leading to layoffs.  Is this a short-term blip or a more serious long-term stalling of an industry attempting to produce 20% of the US power supply by 2030?  The answer my friends isn't blowin' in the wind, but in the smoke-filled rooms of Washington.


  1. I really support wind power, I don't see many downsides to it. I think it can look beautiful, and you can still use the land because wind turbines don't take up that much space. :) I really hope the tax credit is extended!

  2. I found this and thought it was interesting. :)

    1. That is interesting, although the 57% is a bit easier to obtain in the early morning than in the afternoon. Nevertheless, good to see, and good to see the comment about how much weather forecasting is helping the industry.