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In the Mainstream: Wind Turbines Take Off

New technologies are helping windpower mature as a viable power supply choice for utilities.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2006

in the future. As manufacturers and developers have pushed life-cycle costs lower to attract non-recourse project financing, the comfort margin for an economically and operationally stable project has shrunk as well.

The good news is that new developments in windpower technologies are taking some of the burden off life-cycle costs, even as they reduce chances for component failures. As that happens, utilities will become more comfortable with windpower as a reliable supply option, and PUCs and ratepayers more readily will encourage utilities to invest in wind capacity.

“Utilities, particularly those that don’t have wind-project development experience, are becoming eager to acquire existing or new wind projects,” Dehlsen says.

Utility investment is important because it commits ratepayers to financing windpower as a capital investment—not just as a tax-subsidy pass-through. This will expand the universe of wind-project sponsors, and bring low-cost utility capital to the wind-farming business. Ultimately, these developments may help to sustain a healthy windpower business for the long term, allowing it to fully enter the power-generation mainstream.