December 22, 2014
Back in the 1990s, wind turbines were a rare sight in the United States — and sprawling wind farms even rarer.
Things changed considerably in the years since. Thanks to a series of tax credits from Congress and renewable-energy mandates from the states, wind power expanded at a torrid pace. Last year, wind turbines produced 4.1 percent of America’s electricity. Some states do even better — Iowa and South Dakota get a quarter of their electricity from wind.
But the US wind boom is likely to start slowing sharply in the near future. Wind power still relies on government support — particularly the federal production tax credit, which can reduce the cost of building a turbine by one-third. And, in the past few years, Congress keeps letting that tax credit expire intermittently, leading to booms and busts in wind construction.
That pattern continued this year. Lawmakers let the tax credit lapse for most of 2014, until finally extending it on December 16 for the last two weeks of the year. After that, it will expire again — and no one knows if it will get renewed. If so, wind construction could taper off significantly in the years ahead (though it won’t disappear entirely). For full article.