Friday, July 30, 2010

The West and the Wind

gregoire The Western Governors Association surprised a lot of people last year when it issued strong support for nuclear energy among its energy provisions. You can read Nuclear Notes’ coverage of that here.

As I wrote then, the interest isn’t that it was nuclear-friendly, it’s that it focused so intensely on energy issues. This year, they’ve gone further, sending a letter to some key Congressional chairmen:

The Western Governors' Association urged Congress to increase federal loan guarantee authority for new nuclear development by $36 billion, the amount included in President Obama's 2011 budget request. Doing so would enable the financing of six to nine additional new reactors beyond those previously authorized, the governors said.

And why do they want this?

Writing on behalf of their colleagues, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, WGA's chairman, and Washington Gov. Christine O. Gregoire, WGA vice chairman, said this increased loan guarantee volume "will encourage the kind of clean and reliable electric power that will ensure the long term economic and environmental sustainability of the West." 

The full letter is at the group’s site.

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This feels a little ominous:

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) today announced that with only 700 megawatts (MW) added in the second quarter of 2010, wind power installations to date this year have dropped by 57% and 71% from 2008 and 2009 levels, respectively.  Manufacturing investment also continues to lag below 2008 and 2009 levels.

Things have been tough all over, of course, and a chart at AWEA’s site shows that new build has surprisingly frequent rises and falls, meaning that this droop may be part of an established cycle. Might be both things in tandem. Still, ominous:

Beyond 2010: There is a dramatic drop in the project development pipeline after the 5,500 MW under construction—that is, there is no demand beyond the present “coasting momentum.”  Without stable policy, without demand and new power purchase agreements and without new turbine orders, the industry is sputtering out.

I looked around a bit to see if someone had a better notion as to the wherefores of this development. Candace Lombardi at Greentech takes a stab:

The U.S. has stalled on building wind turbine manufacturing facilities. Two manufacturing plants have opened so far in 2010, compared to seven plants opening in 2008 and five in 2009, according to the AWEA.

"In effect, the U.S. is losing the clean energy manufacturing race to Europe and China, which have firm, long-term renewable energy targets and policy commitments in place," AWEA said in a statement.

It really does seem a combination of a nascent technology stalling in the face of dreadful economic times and an uncertain legislative environment. No business has been immune to these factors, but wind really seems to have been caught square. It’ll be interesting to see if AWEA’s quarterly reports show improvement in the next year or two.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.

3 comments:

seth said...

On course Bonneville being a federal agency could just start building the nukes at a fraction of the cost of private utilities. No loan guarantees necessary.

Anonymous said...

Bonneville being a federal agency could just start building the nukes at a fraction of the cost of private utilities.

Why's that? they need to pay for money too.

gmax137 said...

try googling
"Bonneville WPPSS default"