George W. Bush will be remembered for a number of things. He was President for eight momentous years, after all. So it’s easy to make a list of items that you think of when you think of him:
War In Iraq
Real Estate Boom/Bust
Lehman Brothers crisis
There are many more.
One label that most folks would not think of associating with Mr. Bush is “Friend of Renewable Energy.” But that he is.
I attended the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference in Dallas in 2010 and watched Mr. Bush give the keynote speech. He joked about how life was more relaxed after leaving the White House and how he enjoyed giving speeches and could actually make a nice living at it, and how convenient it was for him to be hired to speak at a conference in his home town of Dallas where he could go downtown and shoot the breeze for a couple of hours. Estimates were he was paid $100,000 for the appearance.
It was amusing to watch him talk about the perks of the family business and the easy money on the speaking circuit to a crowd of people who were paying for the privilege of listening to him.
But it’s understandable that AWEA feels a certain debt of gratitude to Mr. Bush. He put wind on the map in Texas. As Pat Wood, his former aide tells the story, he and Mr. Bush were walking through a hallway together and Mr. Bush pulled Wood aside and said “We like wind. Go get smart on it.”
Mr. Bush was raised in West Texas. He knew a little about how the wind blows out there. His aides got busy and in 1999 Governor Bush signed into law a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) for Texas. The bill stated the goal of building 2000 Megawatts of installed wind capacity in Texas in 10 years and put in place policies to encourage wind power development. The RPS goal was surpassed in a huge way. Texas has had 9000 Megawatts of wind energy capacity installed in 11 years following Mr. Bush signing the bill.
Texas has more wind power installed than any other state. If it were a country, Texas would be sixth largest in terms of installed wind power. There are so many wind turbines turning in Texas that on Nov. 10, a particularly windy day, wind turbines reached a combined output of 8.52 Gigawatts – 26% of the total system load at the time.
That is a number that should be impressive to all those who think wind power is a passing fad, that the turbines don’t work, that it’s a lot of government money gone for nothing. 26% of Texas’ total electricity needs powered by wind – an industry that has grown basically in one decade, in a place that is synonymous with petroleum.
The Red State Renewable Alliance is a recently launched lobbying group and Republican think tank. The group points out that 75% of the wind power capacity in the US is in Republican congressional districts. Also, 67% of wind power manufacturing facilities in the US are in Republican districts.
The Production Tax Credit – PTC – provides a federal tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of power generated by wind farms. That tax credit has figured into the economic viability of many wind projects throughout the US. The PTC is set to run out at the end of December unless Congress acts to renew it. If the PTC doesn’t get renewed, by the laws of geography, Republicans will get hurt.
It’s going to be tight – a toss-up. The ship of state is drifting quickly towards the fiscal cliff. Budgets have to be cut. Many oxes will have to be gored. But the PTC has been good for growing businesses. And Republicans don’t want to piss off the large renewable energy constituency in their own districts. So it will be interesting to see if the PTC is extended or falls by the wayside.
Either way, the wind will keep blowing, and the wind energy business will survive. It has proved itself.
Related Article: Bladeless Turbine: The Future of Wind Energy?
After being forward thinking with his wind initiative in Texas, Mr. Bush was somewhat less pro-renewable energy as President. But evidently he has renewable energy in his system.
According to the Dallas Morning News, George W. Bush said that he and Laura are environmentally conscious in their daily life. His ranch in Crawford, Texas, uses geothermal energy, and he collects and reuses rainwater.
“We’re not thumping our chest,” he said. “We just do it. Not for political purpose; that’s just how we want to live our life.”
Broadwind Energy has been working hard to prepare for any eventuality, including the non-renewal of the PTC. The company has three main lines of business. Broadwind manufactures and repairs heavy duty gears – gears for wind turbine gearboxes, oil rigs and other heavy machinery.
Broadwind also does heavy duty welding work. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of large wind turbine towers in North America.
The third business and the most recent endeavour for Broadwind, is wind services – the company does various types of maintenance work for wind farms.
Broadwind has been advancing its non-wind business in recent years. A year ago the company signed an agreement with Caterpillar to supply welded sub-assemblies for draglines and excavators used in the mining industry.
But the wind business is far from dead. In the last two months. Broadwind received orders totalling $51 million to supply new wind towers for two separate wind farms.