Wind generating capacity jumped dramatically in December, just before a tax credit was set to expire.
Congress ended up offering a last-minute reprieve, extending the production tax credit for wind and biofuels as part of the Jan. 1 legislation to avert a tax increase for most Americans.
But in the month before, about 40 percent of total 2012 wind capacity additions came online, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The new projects added 5,253 megawatts of generating capacity to the nation’s electric grid.
About half of wind capacity installations that came online in December were in three states: Texas, 1,120 megawatts; Oklahoma, 794 megawatts; and California, 730 megawatts.
In all, 59 new wind projects began commercial operations in December, the largest single-month capacity increase for wind energy in the United States, according to the EIA.
Texas is the nation’s No. 1 wind energy producer. The projects that came online in December were concentrated along the border and in the Panhandle.
For all of 2012, Texas added 1,504 megawatts of wind capacity. California added the most wind capacity of any state, with 1,789 megawatts.
The burst of activity was attributed to the anticipated expiration of the production tax credit, which required projects to begin operations by the end of December.
Under the one-year extension granted by Congress on Jan. 1, wind and other renewable energy producers also gained a little wiggle room.
Under the extension, projects that begin construction before the end of 2013 are eligible to receive a 2.2 ¢ tax credit per kilowatt hour for generation over a 10-year period.
But wind energy may face other obstacles in Texas.
The state has easily outpaced the Renewable Portfolio Standard — originally set in 1999 and updated over the years to require that utility companies draw a portion of their energy from renewable sources.
Because wind energy producers have been so successful, outpacing the minimum set by the standard, environmentalists fear a move in the Legislature to repeal the standard.
“Wind energy is really being bullied,” said Luke Metzer, director of Environment Texas, of claims that available wind energy is deterring new investment in generating capacity. “They’re making wind the scapegoat for some of our electric problems.”
Read ongoing FuelFix coverage of the debate over wind power investment:
Investments in clean energy dropped in 2012 (Jan. 15)
San Antonio utility signs 25-year wind power agreement (Jan. 15)
Tax credit moves wind industry to ramp up construction plans (Jan. 11)
Google sinks $200 million into Texas wind farm (Jan. 9)
Answers about tax credit are still blowin’ in the wind (Jan. 9)
Emerging economies to triple renewable energy (Jan. 4)
Wind energy tax breaks win as House passes ‘fiscal cliff’ tax package (Jan. 2)
Texas offshore wind project wins federal grant (Dec. 13)
Advocates say wind energy can boost rural economies (Dec. 9)