GE Wind Powering 20 Percent Gain Leads to Life Without Subsidy

A 20 percent increase in the amount of electricity produced by a wind farm will help lead the industry beyond a U.S. tax credit that supports development now.

General Electric Co. is driving to get the most out of a wind farm with a combination of higher towers, longer blades, and advanced planning that targets the benefits of customized designs, said Steve Bolze, chief executive officer of GE Water & Power.

“This is a $50 billion value creation,” Bolze said in an interview. “This is a huge game changer. It’s a culmination of everything we’ve learned about wind.”

The federal production tax credit that helped the U.S. become the world’s largest producer of wind energy in 2014 expired, again, on Dec. 31. The on-again, off-again status of the credit has made it difficult for the wind industry to make long-term plans. It expired at the end of 2012, was renewed days later at the start of 2013, then lapsed again at the beginning of last year, only to be revived for a brief window at the end of 2014.

Renewing the tax credit is the main focus of the American Wind Energy Association, a Washington-based industry group. President Barack Obama has asked for a permanent extension.

GE, the largest supplier of wind turbines in the U.S., expects power produced by the technology to double in five years to 8 percent, reducing fuel costs and pollution. Even without the tax credit, some projects make economic sense already, Bolze said.

“Some projects are on the edge,” he said. “A 20 percent improvement can be enough to tip the edge.”

For more, read this QuickTake: Wind Power