WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress extended through 2005 a popular tax credit for companies that produce electricity from wind, enabling what an industry group said was about $2 billion worth of wind energy projects to proceed.
The projects would add more than 2,000 megawatts in capacity that could provide power to half a million homes, the American Wind Energy Association said.
Energy companies will be able to get a tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. One 50-watt light bulb left on for 20 hours consumes one kilowatt-hour of power.
The tax credit expired on Dec. 31, 2003 and a multi-year extension was initially part of legislation to overhaul U.S. energy policy for the first time in more than a decade.
However, with that broad energy bill bogged down in Congress, lawmakers put language in a family tax cut bill passed late Thursday that would extend the production tax credit through the end of 2005.
President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.
The U.S. wind industry installed a near-record 1,687 megawatts of capacity in 2003. This year, however, most new wind energy projects are on hold because of uncertainty over the tax incentive, according to the wind trade group.
The industry has installed only about 30 megawatts of new wind capacity so far this year, the group said.
U.S. wind energy capacity reached 6,374 megawatts at the beginning of this year, which is the amount of electricity used by about 1.6 million average American households each year.
The Energy Department has announced a goal for the United States to obtain 5 percent of its electricity from wind by 2020, which is consistent with the current rate of growth for wind energy, the trade group said.