In the last-minute tax maneuvering in Congress, wind power came out well.
Wind not only got an extension of its tax credit in the federal budget compromise, but the rules were also restructured: while the extension runs for only one year, the nature of the deadline has changed. Projects do not need to be finished and feeding electricity to the grid by next New Year's Eve; construction only needs to be started.
That change could prove critical. The renewal comes so late — developers had lobbied all last year to avert a Dec. 31 expiration — that most wind developers had simply stopped work on projects that could not be finished by the end of 2012.
The process of getting a wind farm going, including studying the wind resource, negotiating a land lease or purchase, obtaining environmental and construction permits, signing a contract to sell the electricity to a utility, getting financing, ordering the equipment and then installing it, can easily take more than two years.
A Senate aide who was involved in the run-up to the yearlong extension by Congress said that approval on New Year's Day could have been "like inviting somebody who is halfway around the world to lunch in an hour.''
When the numbers for 2012 are in, the wind industry expects it to have been a record year, surpassing the 10 gigawatts installed in 2010; the total in 2012 may have reached 12 gigawatts. Construction could resume at roughly the same pace. [NY Times]