The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) has decided to provide $47.5 million in funding over five years for development of large-scale wind farms and encourage the use of small wind turbines on farms and rural homesteads, resulting in the expected construction of over 200 megawatts of wind turbine generating capacity statewide. This would be enough to meet the annual energy needs of 84,000 homes, said the US trade association American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The Commission’s action increases wind energy funding by nearly four times previous funding levels in New York State. The funds from the Commission’s 1996 order helped establish the state’s first two large-scale wind farms that went on line last autumn in Madison and Wyoming Counties. New York has considerable untapped wind power resources and ranks higher than California in wind energy potential, with industry experts predicting that wind energy could ultimately supply 5000 megawatts of electric power generation, enough to meet 8-10% of the state’s electric power consumption.

The new funding for the so-called Energy Smart Programs will be raised through a charge on electric bills. The Commission raised the charge from less than a tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour, to approximately 0.14 cents/kWh (1.4 mills/kwh). The increase is equivalent to about 72 cents (£0.5) a month on an average household electric bill. David Wooley, AWEA’s regional director noted that the funding should be viewed as part of a broader set of state policies needed to secure clean and affordable electric power supplies for the state. “Distribution utilities, the state power authorities (NYPA and LIPA) have important responsibilities to develop renewable energy resources. Regulatory action is needed to broaden opportunities for consumers to make wind energy part of their everyday electric power supply. State income tax credits would create a thriving small wind turbine industry here,” he said.

Although wind power provides a small amount of total US electricity demand, that amount could grow quickly because the price of producing wind power in the country since 1980 has fallen from about 40 cents per kilowatt hour (£0.27) to five cents (£0.034), according to the US Department of Energy. The German Wind Association recently announced that the country’s capacity has recently increased its lead over the US as the world’s wind superpower, almost trebling it (see related story).

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