Thursday, September 10, 2009

$1-billion Wind energy investments approved in US

The United States House of Representatives approved an energy research programme on Wednesday that envisions spending $1-billion over the next five years to expand generation of wind power.

By voice vote, the House approved the legislation authorising $200-million per year from 2010-2014. The US Energy Department would oversee the program.

Representative Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat who pushed the bill, said it would provide "the necessary investment to help private industry perfect wind energy and bring those advances in technology and cost savings to market".

Earlier this year, as part of a massive economic stimulus measure sought by President Barack Obama, Congress approved billions of dollars for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects.

And while the Senate has not yet considered this specific bill, an energy panel earlier this year passed a wide-ranging bill requiring utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources within the next decade or so.

The push for the expansion of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, is tied into a broader effort by Democrats to cut fossil fuel use because of its contribution to global warming.

The House-passed bill aims to improve energy efficiency and capacity of wind turbines and reduce the cost of construction, generation and maintenance so that wind energy will be more competitive with coal, natural gas and other traditional sources.

For example, the program would provide funds for research into new materials and designs to make larger, less expensive and more reliable motor blades used in wind power generation, according to Tonko.

Wind energy currently makes up only about two percent of total energy generation in the United States. Some proponents think it could grow to 20 percent with technological improvements.