Google Inc. yesterday agreed to buy wind energy for its Oklahoma data center from the Canadian Hills wind power project. The Internet giant plans to pay a premium to purchase 48 megawatts of wind energy from Canadian Hills in addition to the electricity it already receives from local utility Grand River Dam Authority. The company has been working with the utility to get more renewable energy resources since last year, the company said in a statement.
New York state lawmakers, union leaders and operators of coal-burning power plants expressed opposition at a state Senate hearing yesterday to a proposal to ship Canadian hydropower into New York City through an underwater power line. Senate Standing Committee on Energy and Telecommunications Chairman George Maziarz (R) said the proposed $2.2 billion, 333-mile transmission line from the Canadian border to the city would punish aging power plants that are already struggling from weak demand and cheap natural gas.
A coalition of labor unions and environmental groups started a multistate tour today to urge key Republican lawmakers to renew a key wind tax credit, warning that scrapping it will kill thousands of jobs. “Congress must renew the production tax credit,” said David Foster, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “The lives of real Americans are being disrupted; jobs are at stake as well as future environmental performance.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin remains committed to an extension of the federal production tax credit for wind energy, joining several other Republican governors and lawmakers in the central United States and highlighting a split with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Fallin, speaking at the annual meeting of the Southern States Energy Board in Oklahoma City, said she still supports a temporary extension of the production tax credit. The incentive, which expires, offers wind producers a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit.
The Faculty Senate has approved the formation of a wind energy Ph.D. program at Iowa State. The university had received a $3 million award from the National Science Foundation in the fall of 2011, to support the new program. At senate’s the meeting this past Sept. 11 meeting, the plans were set in motion, to begin as early as spring 2013.
Forty-seven House Republicans are calling for an end to the federal production tax credit for wind energy, invoking the failed Solyndra solar energy company to decry the subsidy as another Obama administration green energy handout that picks winners and losers. The group, led by Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo — a vocal opponent of all forms of energy subsidies — submitted a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday urging him to allow the PTC to expire by the end of the year as scheduled.
Just as the wind energy industry is poised for a record year, uncertainty about federal energy policy is threatening to pull the plug on its future. The federal production tax credit for wind power is set to expire in less than three months. Wind energy companies are already curtailing manufacturing and construction plans, laying off workers along the way. More layoffs are expected if we don’t act quickly. An estimated 37,000 Americans stand to lose their jobs within the next six months, according to the American Wind Energy Association, if Congress does not extend the tax credit, which supports the generation of wind energy. A similar fate awaits other renewable energy sectors, including biomass and waste-to-energy, which have tax credits set to expire next year.
The wind industry’s main trade association is predicting that new installations will fall to zero without a renewal of the production tax credit, which applies only to projects finished by New Year’s Eve. Since renewal is iffy, some wind machine factories are already shutting down, as my colleague Diane Cardwell reported on Friday. From another perspective, this is the moment for the feast before the famine: the impending deadline means that a surge of projects are approaching completion. On Saturday, officials will cut the ribbon on what some people say is the largest onshore wind farm in the United States, Shepherds Flat in north-central Oregon.
The once bright future of wind energy is looking a bit dimmer these days. The recent announcement that “Siemens Energy” plans to lay off more than 600 workers in three states, including a plant in Iowa, not only affects current jobs, but may also impact those looking to enter the wind energy field. Since he was a Freshman in high school, Adam Kadner knew he wanted to study a career in wind energy.
The wind power industry boasts enviable political assets in its fight to preserve a prized tax benefit. Republican and Democratic governors trumpet the benefits of wind energy; industry officials can identify manufacturing jobs at risk in crucial presidential election swing states if the tax credit expires; and a phalanx of lobbyists and consultants are working to ensure it stays in place for at least one more year. But now an unusual coalition is fighting the extension, including tea party followers, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the electric utility most closely associated with President Obama. The result is an unpredictable and intense lobbying fight.