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Uncertainty Slows Wind Energy Investment

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The 40-foot wind turbine outside Nantuckets Restaurant in Fenwick Island, Del., is one of 100 wind and solar projects in the area.
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The 40-foot wind turbine outside Nantuckets Restaurant in Fenwick Island, Del., is one of 100 wind and solar projects in the area.

By Sabri Ben-Achour and Bryan Russo

Wind energy in the United States is losing some of it's gust, threatening regional growth in wind in the long term.

Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, has bad news for the growth of the wind energy industry this quarter.

"It's the slowest quarter since 2007, basically down 72 percent over last year," she says.

But Bode says it's not because of the recession.

"We've been held hostage over the past year and a half in these battles over a broader energy policy," she says.

It's not clear if tax credits for wind will be sustained, and a bill that would require all utilities nationwide to use a certain percentage of wind energy is languishing.

The uncertainty has slowed investment, Bode says. Even on the Eastern Shore, which is considered a growth leader for wind.

The 40-foot wind turbine swirling and howling outside Nantuckets Restaurant in Fenwick Island, Del., is just one of 100 wind and solar projects that a company called Flexera has completed in the area since 2007.

Yet, Flexera's regulatory specialist, Finn McCabe, says the company has seen a slowdown.

"It's hard to compete with a longstanding federal subsidy that's twice as much as you're receiving for renewables," McCabe says.

Fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are still getting more money, thus making it harder for people to invest in solar or wind--in addition to very tricky permitting regulations which often stalls projects.

McCabe also says that the federal Investment Tax Credit, which helps pay for projects, is set to expire at the end of the year.

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