Environment Forum

Which way will the wind (power) blow in 2010?

windturbinesThe United States became the No. 1 wind power market in the world in 2008. But under the credit crisis in 2009, the building of new wind farms slackened and the United States ceded its top global spot to China.

With the demand for renewable energy still growing, the American Wind Energy Association is eyeing 2010 as a critical year. Here are some of their top trends to watch for:

Second to natural gas: Wind power generates only 2 percent of the U.S. electrical supply. But new wind power generation in the United States has been second only to natural gas generation in terms of new capacity built each year since 2005. Watch for the industry to work to keep that spot.

Wind turbines ratchet up the power: General Electric won a $1.4 billion contract in December to supply 338 turbines for a massive new wind farm in Oregon being built by energy producer Caithness Energy LLC. The size of the turbines — 2.5 megawatts — forecasts a shift to larger turbines, driven by economics, the wind group said. “Taller turbines with larger swept areas produce more power at a lower cost per kilowatt-hour.”

Market for small projects grows: The trade group predicts small wind projects for homeowners and small businesses will see record growth, fueled by an expansion of a 30-percent investment tax credit.

Another reason for bats to like Halloween

bat1.JPGHalloween is just around the corner, and it may be better than most years for one of Earth’s most unpopular species: the bat. 

Something sinister is happening to bats in the United States — not only are their numbers declining due to a mysterious malady, but large numbers of them are also being caught mid-flight in the spinning wind turbines that are cropping up rapidly across the nation.

The furry flying critters may get help this month thanks to an unlikely group of conservationists, wind energy companies and the U.S. government, who say they are undertaking a big effort to lower the number of bats killed by wind turbine blades.