The business is falling off a cliff now as equipment suppliers anticipate a drop in orders. Example: Siemens said earlier this month it would eliminate more than 900 jobs at wind turbine manufacturing plants in Iowa, Kansas and Florida. Companies have announced almost 1,700 layoffs in recent months, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
Susan Small, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Public Service Commission, said no wind project applications are pending in the Mountain State.
Numerous factors beyond financing and tax policy are a drag on wind energy.
For one thing, it's controversial. Numerous regulators have a say. One project, Beech Ridge in Greenbrier County, is only permitted to operate during daylight hours because spinning turbines at night threaten the bat population.
Also, wind is intermittent. It typically blows harder at night, which is after demand for energy peaks and companies can command the highest price.
Herholdt noted that it is a challenge to integrate intermittent power generators like wind and solar into the grid. One West Virginia wind project, AES Laurel Mountain, helped solve this problem by installing a $25 million, 32-megawatt battery - the largest installation of its kind.
Other challenges: Wind resources are often far from the existing grid and building a connection is expensive. Demand for additional power has waned since the Great Recession. And U.S. equipment manufacturers face stiff competition from low-cost foreign suppliers.
The price of wind power is an ongoing issue because, without the federal tax credit, it can't compete with the cost of electricity from conventional fuels. New technologies have allowed drillers to exploit the Marcellus Shale and other natural gas resources, creating a natural gas glut. The price of natural gas is so low, utilities that can switch from coal to gas are doing so.
In 2008 Appalachian Power agreed to buy the power generated by the Beech Ridge wind farm in Greenbrier County for 20 years. Herholdt said that in its submissions to the Public Service Commission, Appalachian Power has said that in 2015 its portfolio also will include power from wind projects in Illinois and Indiana.
"Why are they buying wind from Illinois and Indiana and not using our own wind?" Herholdt asked. "It's cost. The Public Service Commission must deal with cost and quality of utility services. That's the challenge of wind in West Virginia: It is much more expensive to build on ridge tops. That's why most of the projects that have been done are on surface-mined land."
The West Virginia Public Service Commission has approved two wind projects that have not yet been built. In addition, the owner of Beech Ridge is seeking to add more windmills.
Otherwise, the wind business in West Virginia appears to be slowing from a gust to a breeze.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.