Opponents of an expiring renewable energy tax credit are rolling out a new study and ad campaign today arguing that some states receive more benefits than others. It’s the latest move in a long-running effort by the American Energy Alliance, a conservative advocacy group, and the Institute for Energy Research, its affiliated think tank, to eliminate the production tax credit, which supports the generation of wind electricity and a handful of other renewable sources. The credit is set to expire at the end of this year, although a modification enacted in January means wind developers can continue to claim it through at least 2015 as long as certain conditions are met.
“Wind energy is not a gigantic portion of New York State’s energy mix, but it is growing rapidly,” says Eric Whelan of Environment New York. The group’s report demonstrates “the environmental benefits that we could capture if we move forward in building more clean energy,” Whelan adds.
A large wind farm project planned for northeast Nebraska has been shelved because the builder couldn’t get a power company to commit to buying the electricity it would generate. The project planned by TradeWind Energy of Lenexa, Kan., is on hold unless the company gets a deal signed to sell the energy.
“We’re still very much interested in building that project, and yet the hoped-for export (contract) … just didn’t come together in time for us to be able to make the commitments we need to meet the start of construction that the IRS is requiring by the end of this year,” said Frank Costanza, executive vice president of TradeWind Energy. In order to qualify for the tax credits, Tradewind would have to spend 5 percent of the project’s total cost of $400 million to $500 million by the end of December. But without a commitment to buy the electricity, Tradewind cannot take the risk
Tax breaks for wind-power producers are set to expire in a little more than a month, threatening hundreds of manufacturing and energy jobs in the state if nothing is done. In Iowa, much of the attention has focused on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in which the federal government guarantees a market for biofuels. But for Iowa’s turbine manufacturers and power companies, it’s the federal production tax credit that is the center of concern.
Iowa’s future as a wind power leader relies on more utility customers than the state can provide. The state ranks third nationally in wind energy production, with 3,198 turbines generating 25 percent of the state’s energy, as well as some reliable income for landowners who negotiated their place on the state’s alternative power grid. The next big step requires extending the power grid, and that’s the goal of the Rock Island Clean Line, a cross-country transmission line to take Iowa’s wind power eastward to more customers. Wind energy cannot be stored. So to get the maximum value of the state’s existing turbine network, it makes sense to connect to more customers.
Iowa’s hugely successful wind industry isn’t just an economic driver, it’s having a major impact on cutting pollution and saving water. Wind energy generation in Iowa avoids more than 8.4 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution — the equivalent of taking 1.7 million cars off the road, according to a new report released by Environment Iowa.
Efforts to extend the credit have already met with pushback from stakeholders on the other side of the issue. The American Energy Alliance has so far been one of the most vocal opponents of the credit and is planning a major drive against the credit set to begin next week with the release of a series of digital and print ads in the Washington, D.C., market as well as national ads railing against the subsidy for wind producers. AEA is also helping to organize a fly-in next week to marshal grassroots organizations from across the country to put pressure on members of Congress not to renew the subsidy. According to Benjamin Cole, a spokesperson for AEA, the fly-in will focus on strengthening opposition to the credit among members who have already said they want to see it expire
When U.S. EPA was founded in 1970, Bill Ruckelshaus had thousands of applications from would-be employees who wanted to be part of an agency with a cause they believed in. “From the beginning, the morale was sky high,” the first EPA administrator said in a recent interview. “People were excited and enthusiastic and working around the clock because they had this cause that they were working for.” The thrill is gone. An agency that was once home to some of the government’s happiest employees now ranks just average in morale. And EPA’s not alone: Employees at the Interior Department and the Energy Department are also on par with other federal workers when it comes to their overall job satisfaction, according to a recent government survey.
The federal government Friday announced the first-ever criminal enforcement of bird-protection laws at a wind energy facility, fining a North Carolina-based energy giant $1 million for killing more than 150 migratory birds, including 14 golden eagles, at two Wyoming wind farms over the past few years. The government’s plea agreement with Duke Energy Corp. could have broad legal implications as the Obama administration and the wind industry grapple with the ecological trade-offs of building commercial-scale wind farms across the landscape.