“Even with the tax credits in place, 2013 development would be selective,” says Copleman, adding, “Certainly, when we compare anything to 2012, it might look slower.”
It’s unlikely that much will be started within the first six months of the year. As the continuation of the tax credit grew more uncertain last year, more than a dozen wind manufacturers laid off thousands of workers. With the renewal of the PTC, wind chain suppliers such as Vestas will have to ramp up production again, which will take several months. In a statement, however, Vestas says it expects to employ 16,000 workers this year and deliver 5,000 MW of wind power.
“Obviously, the turbine supply chain has been disrupted,” says Tim Maag, vice president and general manager of the U.S. wind group for Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction. Restarting that chain “won’t happen overnight,” he says.
Maag says Morstenson has been “extremely busy” over the past few months pricing jobs and providing preconstruction services for its clients. Maag says Morstenson—which built about 20%, or 2,400 MW, of the wind farms in the nation last year—expects the end of 2013 to be busy.
The PTC isn’t the only driver for new wind farms, Copleman says. The sluggish economy and low demand growth are causing many utilities to postpone construction of any new generation. In some states, though, new wind farms are needed to meet renewable-portfolio standards.
A handful of shovel-ready projects are expected to begin construction soon because of the extension: a 75-MW expansion of the Broken Bow Wind project by Midwest Wind Energy near Kearney, Neb.; a 300-MW wind farm by RES Americas near Mower County, Minn.; and the 200-MW Prairie Breeze Wind Energy Center by Invenergy, near Elgin, Neb., among others. Additionally, developer First Wind says it plans to start construction of up to 500 MW of wind turbines in Maine, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Hawaii before the end of year.
“With the passage of the wind-energy tax-credit extension, First Wind and other wind-energy companies around the country have predictable federal policy in place that will allow for millions of dollars of investment in local communities over the next few years,” says Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind.
“We were always hopeful that the PTC would pass eventually,” says First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne. “While there may be slow growth in electricity demand nationwide, we find there is still a strong need for clean, renewable energy in the areas we’re in.”