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Wind projects pick up speed despite troubled economy

By Sandy Shore
Associated Press / April 29, 2009
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DENVER - Wind farms added more than 2,800 megawatts of capacity in the first quarter, a trade group reported yesterday, offering a sliver of good news for an industry pummeled by frozen credit markets and the recession.

From January to March, about three dozen developers started wind farms in 15 states, adding about twice the capacity that came on line last year during the same period, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association.

The added megawatts are enough to power more than 816,000 homes.

Most projects were already under construction in 2008 as the economy weakened, said Kathy Belyeu, the group's industry information services manager.

A number of companies were forced to shelve projects and lay off workers, particularly from October to December, when credit became scarce.

Industry officials say investments began to tail off because of the way tax credits for projects are structured.

Treasury is expected to release new rules as part of the economic stimulus package that would allow for something closer to a rebate for wind investments as an alternative to tax credits.

The stimulus package has already had an effect on the industry.

By the end of March, about three dozen new projects had been announced, with a potential of 3,540 megawatts. Belyeu said some of those projects were motivated by the stimulus package.