Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Sell me a wind turbine. Do it.

Posted by Rich Sweeney on December 7, 2007

When I was in Russia a few years ago a friend told me a corny, but somehow interesting joke. She told me that the Russian word for a breeze or a draft in a room is pronounced “dooit” (literally, “it blows”). So if you speak both Russian and English, you sometimes say to people, “Close the window. Do it.”, and laugh.

That was a very tangential segue to my second skeptical RPS post of the day. Yesterday I was at a renewables meeting with Peter Bierden, Director of Global Wind Projects at GE Energy. He was going along talking about how great wind energy is when suddenly he dropped this little tidbit of information on the group: GE, by far and away the largest turbine manufacturer in the US, is so backed up that you can’t even place an order for delivery prior to 2010.  Every electricity model out there, RFF’s included, predicts meeting the overwhelming majority of renewable generation requirements with wind energy in the short to medium term. Now Peter didn’t discuss exactly how many turbines were set to be delivered, but the fact that they’re booked solid prior to Congress passing an energy bill does not bode well.

Ironically, Congress’s ridiculous, discontinuous approach the the federal production tax credit (PTC) is probably the main source of GE’s current supply constraints. When a Republican congress allowed the PTC to lapse last, in 2003, GE was left holding the bag on its contracts in progress with suppliers. Now we’re going through this charade all over again, as Congress debates whether or not to extend the PTC. Yet, even if they do decide to extend it another year, according to Bierden’s comments, that won‘t affect wind installation at all, as turbine purchasers today would be concerned with a PTC in 2011.

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