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Wind energy industry looks to Copenhagen for a mandate

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Growth was strong through the end of the third quarter of 2009 with 5,800 megawatts of capacity built – more than the 5,000 last year.

Still, today there is just 5,000 megawatts of wind power in the near-term development pipeline compared with 8,000 megawatts last year. That slowing is hurting US wind manufacturing plants in places like Iowa, where turbine and blade manufacturing facilities have laid off workers and are sitting on a lot of inventory, analysts say.

The wind power industry got a pick-me-up this summer when stimulus funding began to hit. A measure that allowed an alternate means of financing kicked in – enabling wind-power developers to turn investment tax credits into dollars by getting direct refunds from the federal government.

So far at least $1 billion in such financing has supported the industry this year, Bode says.

“Until the end of 2008, [wind power manufacturers] were making machinery as fast as they could,” she says. “Now we’re still seeing significant problems in this manufacturing sector. The recovery package threw us a lifeline, but they’re still hurting.”

But as important is the stimulus aid was, what happens next in Copenhagen and in Congress – and how soon – is critical, she says.

On her wish list this Christmas is a strong statement or agreement coming out of both the climate summit and Capitol Hill committing the US and the rest of the world to shift away from fossil fuels and put in place clear requirements – a mandate – to build renewable energy.

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