Subsidy for wind power survives another year

The Production Tax Credit for wind power, which gives a subsidy of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of wind power produced, was on the chopping block, due to sunset at the end of 2012. Despite heavy lobbying from the American Wind Energy Association, things didn’t look great for its extension, which would have sent the wind industry into the dumps.

Well, late New Year’s Day, it was all celebrations for wind power advocates as President Obama signed a one year extension for the subsidy that allows the credits to apply not just to wind projects that are completed in 2013 but those that are begun. Expect this to mean that a lot of projects get rushed into construction next December as the same last minute lobbying attempts to get the subsidy extended yet again.

The wind industry is still in better shape than solar if only because wind remains relatively competitive, coming in at around 9 cents per kilowatt hour in terms of its levelized cost (solar runs about 15 cents and natural gas is 6-7 cents). Most models predict that wind and solar will continue to slope downward in cost and the companies that can survive over the next 6-10 years until grid parity is truly here, will do very well.

Latest in cleantech, via GigaOM Pro

The latest in cleantech from GigaOM Pro this week: advanced battery technologies, the fate of clean energy post election, and should the U.S. aggressively export natural gas?

Today in Cleantech

The Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power failed to get support in the U.S. Senate yesterday, an ominous sign for a subsidy that the American Wind Energy Association says is critical to saving 37,000 jobs.  We’ve seen what subsidy rollbacks have done to solar over the past 18 months. While I don’t think the impact would be as drastic for wind power, which is historically more cost competitive with fossil fuels to begin with, it’s still going to make it harder for wind power to grow in the U.S. Wind power is the leading source of renewable energy right now, though that could shift somewhat if the subsidy environment changes.

GrabCAD grabs $4M for open-source CAD

GrabCAD, a specialist in open-source CAD software, has netted $4.2 million in new funding from its existing VC backers. It has also added Matrix Partners’ David Skok to its board, according to a new blog post by GrabCAD President Hardi Meybaum.

Today in Cleantech

Time’s environmental reporter, Bryan Walsh, took a look at 2012 and the subsidy environment for renewable energy. Quite simply if the Production Tax Credit (PTC) is not renewed for wind power and if the Treasury Department’s section 1603 program, which gives cash grants to renewable energy projects, sunsets on December 31st, we’re headed for a rough couple years. A wind energy industry sponsored piece of research from Navigant Consulting (Navigant called the plunge in solar PV prices) says the industry will lose 37,000 jobs if the PTC expires. More problematic in my eyes is the difficulty of making renewable energy price competitive when the industry must constantly adjust to drastic shifts in the subsidy environment, particularly when wind and solar power are getting incrementally cheaper every year.

Gmail for iPhone Web App: Nice, But I Won’t Be Switching

photo1You’ve undoubtedly heard about the new Gmail for iPhone web app by now — but is it worth switching from the native iPhone (s aapl) Mail application? Lifehacker has posted an interesting comparison of features available in the new Gmail (s goog) web app client vs. the native client, and based on the features alone, the web app looks to be the clear winner. In particular, threaded conversations and the powerful search in the web app trump the features available in the native client.
But while it’s clearly a massive improvement over the old version in terms of speed and functionality I’m not going to be switching to it from the iPhone’s Mail app any time soon. The native client does does pretty much everything I need a mobile email client to do and feels faster when moving from one mail to another, so I’m going to continue tapping that “Mail” icon for now.
Having said that, the search feature can be very useful at times, so I’ve added the web app for that one to my home screen for quick access.
Have you switched to the Gmail web app?

5 Most Popular Posts on WebWorkerDaily This Week

Just in case you missed any of them, here are the five most popular posts on WebWorkerDaily this week:

In this post, Dawn shares some great tips on how to get more out of your RSS feeds, while spending less time reading them.

Darrell takes a look at MindView 3, the newest version of MatchWare’s nifty mind mapping tool.

Samuel reviews the updated Pencil, a Firefox drawing extension.

A perennial WWD favorite, Anne lists 10 ways that you can make money from the web.

Part of the Web Work 101 series, Darrell discusses three things that are critical to the success of any new web worker: planning, budgeting and goal-setting.

Why Refundable Tax Credits Are Important for Clean Power

Now that President-elect Barack Obama has presented his economic stimulus plan — and set a goal of doubling clean energy output within three years — it’s time to delve into what wind and solar industry insiders say will be the most crucial incentive for boosting production: refundable tax credits.

In October, industry officials applauded extensions of the investment tax credit for solar and the production tax credit for wind. But with turmoil in the financial sector have come calls to revise the incentive programs. Last week, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association joined forces to push for refundable tax credits in an economic stimulus package. We’re likely to hear a lot more about it as Congress mulls Obama’s plan.

Why does this bit of tax policy matter so much to wind and solar? The recent investment banking shakeup has left energy companies competing for financing from a shrinking pool of tax-equity investors. These investors, which not too long ago counted among their top ranks AIG, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and Morgan Stanley, basically buy tax credits from solar energy companies and wind turbine manufacturers. As the San Francisco Business Times explains, the firms then use the credits, or tax equity, to shelter otherwise taxable income.
Read More about Why Refundable Tax Credits Are Important for Clean Power

Airport Extreme Update Pulled, But Damage Already Done

Updates turning out to be harmful rather than helpful are nothing new, and it’s beginning to look like you can add Apple’s latest Airport Extreme software “fix” to the list of the potentially damaging.
Complaints from commenters and bloggers around the net are beginning to pile up, yet Apple remains silent on the status of the update (numbered 2008-003) which was uploaded to their servers Monday and then pulled shortly after without explanation.
While the update was intended to resolve issues when roaming in large Wi-Fi networks, reports are claiming that not only does that issue persist, in some cases the patch is causing network problems. Some users are even claiming that following the update, Airport ceases to work at all. Total Airport failures are being reported on multiple platforms, including the Aluminum MacBook and late model white MacBook. Others are claiming reduced capability, including connection problems and the inability of their machines to recognize the 802.11n capability of their cards (a/b/g only).
Read More about Airport Extreme Update Pulled, But Damage Already Done