Colorado tops in U.S. for new wind farm facilities in Q3

The association, based in Washington, D.C., said 1,204 megawatts of wind turbines were installed in the third quarter, nearly 80 percent more than the 671 megawatts installed during the third quarter 2010.

Through the first three quarters of 2011, about 3,360 megawatts of wind power have been installed, up 75 percent over the first nine months of 2010, according to the report.

Colorado installed 501 megawatts worth of wind power during the third quarter, the most in the nation. Colorado as followed by Minnesota with 103 megawatts, Oklahoma with 130 megawatts and West Virginia with 98 megawatts. Texas was fifth, with 88 megawatts installed during the third quarter, according to the report.

Xcel Energy Inc. (NYSE: XEL), the largest electricity and natural gas utility in Colorado, also projects that a proposed 200-megawatt wind farm in Limon will save its customers nearly $278 million in electricity bills over 25 years, compared to forecast electricity prices using natural gas, according to the report.

WEA largely credits the high numbers of wind installations to federal tax credits. Many wind projects have commenced construction in 2011 in order to qualify for the 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Developers can elect to receive an equivalent cash payment from the Department of Treasury for the value of the 30 percent ITC on projects that began construction before the end of 2011 and are placed in service before 2013.

While Section 1603 will likely expire on Dec. 31, 2011, the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) will be a draw for wind developments in 2012. Under present law, the PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents/kWh for the production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines. AWEA estimates that the PTC has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment. The PTC is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

Until the tax credits expire, AWEA expects that wind installation numbers will remain high – at least through the end of 2012. “We expect that the fourth quarter of 2011 will be the largest quarter of the year, with total installations reaching between 6,500 to 7,500 for the entire year,” said Elizabeth Salerno, director of industry data and analysis.

While AWEA is pushing for a four-year extension of the PTC, Salerno said wind developments post-2012 have a “question mark over them” for the time being.