Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicken? Egg? Wind?

What has to come first to cover our horizon with wind turbines? This photo was taken near Palm Springs and shows part of an installation of 4,000 turbines.

I have mixed feelings about how much wind would be good for the Panhandle - not really at the wild-eyed chamber of commerce level, but not totally against it like the grumpy old man people accuse me of being.

The American Wind Energy Association recently released its second quarter market report, saying wind installations nationally went against expectations, beating the 2008 first half total. The industry installed 4,000 megawatts in 2009 versus 2,900 MW last year.

In another segment of the business, orders for parts are slowing as is the manufacture of turbines.

AWEA's CEO, Denise Bode, says what we need is a stronger push by the federal government via a robust national renewable fuel requirement.

And what can't the federal government make better? Nevertheless, in the shortrun, that probably won't help the Panhandle.

Walt Hornaday, head of Cielo Wind, knows about the wind business here. His company finished the Wildorado Wind Ranch in Oldham County a couple of years ago and has developed numerous other projects in Texas.

While people continue to say "if only the transmission lines would get here to take our power to the neon lights of Dallas, we could start building wind farms," there might be something else hitting the brakes.

According to Hornaday, The financial sector would not step up and fund that building right now. With projects costing about $2 million per megawatt, that's a lot of missing financing when you think about the Wildorado installation being rated at 161 MW capacity.

The AWEA report has some other interesting information, especially if you're a wind geek. For example, Missouri led the country in second quarter growth at 146 MW added while Texas doesn't even make the top 10 with 454 MW added. I know that's because Texas already has a lot of wind farms, so the 454 is a smaller percentage, but it looks weird to get beat by Missouri.

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