From: Eerin Waldner, The Bakersfield Californian
Published April 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Wind Energy Industry Sets Sails for Good Year during 2005

2005 is shaping up to be a good year for the American wind energy industry, a trade organization said Tuesday.


The American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C., said it expects the industry to install 2,500 megawatts of new capacity this year. That's enough energy to serve about 700,000 homes. Randall Swisher, executive director of the association, said in a statement that many states are looking at wind energy as a tool for economic development.


However, the forecast for Tehachapi's wind energy industry is not as bright.


"Modest amounts" of new wind energy turbines will be installed in Tehachapi this year, said Hal Romanowitz, who represents the Kern Wind Energy Association and is president of Oak Creek Energy Systems, a wind energy company in Tehachapi.


More turbines won't be built this year because Tehachapi needs additional transmission capacity, he said.


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Plans are in the works to build more power lines in that area. The California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have to sign off on the project.


Although construction wouldn't get under way until 2007 at the earliest, Romanowitz said the project is moving forward.


"The ball is continuing to bounce down the court," he said.


However, at GE Wind Energy, an arm of GE Energy in Atlanta, 2005 is off to a very good start, said company spokesman Mary McCann, speaking by phone from Ireland.


McCann said GE expects to manufacture 1,100 wind energy turbines in the United States this year, which she said is a "huge" increase over 2004 and almost twice as much as 2003. She said she did not have exact figures for those years.


McCann said control panels for the new turbines GE will build will be made at GE's production plant in Tehachapi.


The plant no longer manufactures turbines. With the industry slump in 2004, McCann said GE shifted the plant's focus to making control panels.


McCann attributed the increase in orders for wind energy turbines to the extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit, known in the industry as the PTC.


Last year was a non-PTC year. The PTC had expired, and orders in the United States for new turbines plummeted. The PTC has since been renewed, but is due to expire again at the end of this year.


To see more of The Bakersfield Californian, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bakersfield.com.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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