News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Wind Group to Congress: 'Six More Years of Subsidies, Please'

AWEA wants six more years of subsidies to build more of these | Photo: Paul Hamilton/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A leading wind energy trade association supporting an extension of a federal wind power subsidy has finally weighed in on how long it thinks that subsidy should last. In a letter sent Wednesday to Congressional leaders, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has urged Congress to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) until 2018.

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The AWEA letter was sent to Senators Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch, who lead their respective sides of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representatives Dave Camp and Sander Levin, who head the House Ways and Means Committee.

The PTC, currently set to expire at the end of the month, rewards qualifying owners of wind turbines a tax credit of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power the turbines produce. For a 1.5-megawatt turbine -- a common size -- the credit could run as high as $30 per hour of energy production.

Predictably enough, in a year in which renewable energy incentives have been a political football, the PTC has seen its share of opposition from the right wing. That's not across-the-board opposition, however: a few Republican governors in states where wind power production is a significant part of the local economy have endorsed the idea of extending the PTC.

In the letter, the AWEA's CEO Denise Bode credits the PTC with a 12-fold increase in wind turbine production over the last five years. For some months wind industry analysts have pinned a moderate decline in industry activity on the looming expiration of the tax credit. Bode urges the Senators and Representatives to renew the PTC in during the lame duck session, projecting that 37,000 jobs may be lost in the first quarter of 2013 if the subsidy is allowed to expire:

Our top policy priority in the lame duck session is an immediate extension of the PTC, allowing projects that commence construction by the end of 2013 to qualify for the credit.

Critics of the PTC have challenged wind advocates over the PTC, asking how long the federal government is going to have to prop up the industry before it can stand on its own, the implication being that it won't. But in the letter, Bode offers a fairly specific timeline for winding down the PTC:

Analytical results indicate that a PTC beginning with 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, or 100 percent of the current level for projects that begin construction in 2013, followed by 90 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent, 60 percent, and then 60 percent of the current level for projects that are placed in service in years 2014 through 2018, with no PTC in 2019 or afterwards, would sustain a minimally viable industry, able to continue achieving cost reductions.

If AWEA does win an extension of the credit, it'll be yet another late-2012 face slap for the country's conservative establishment. The Koch brothers' American Energy Alliance and the Heritage Foundation have made fighting a PTC extension a priority. "Our goal is to make the PTC so toxic that it makes it impossible for John Boehner to sit at a table with Harry Reid and say, 'Yeah, I can bend on this one,'" American Energy Alliance spokesman Benjamin Cole told Politico in October.

Conservatives aren't the only people opposed to the Production Tax Credit. Mojave Desert land preservation activists breathed a sigh of relief earlier this year when Desert Air Renewables essentially walked away from a wind proposal on the east edge of Joshua Tree National Park, presumably due to the unlikelihood of receiving tax credits if the project wasn't finished in 2012. As in many other aspects of the renewable energy industry, the environmentalist community is rather deeply split. Groups whose main focus is developing renewables no matter what support the PTC, while those concerned about wind turbines' effects on wildlife, noise, and light pollution don't necessarily agree.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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Equipped with the production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry has been able to lower the cost of wind power by more than 90%, provide power to the equivalent of over 12 million American homes, and foster economic development in all 50 states.

American wind power has created tens of thousands of jobs and helped spur a manufacturing renaissance. Today nearly 500 U.S. manufacturing plants located in all regions of the country serve the industry.

All of this has been accomplished largely with an effective tax policy in the form of the production tax credit.

With the threat of the PTC’s expiration, wind project developers are not making plans in the U.S. and American manufacturers are not receiving orders. Job layoffs have started already, which could total up to 37,000 jobs lost.

Without an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit, the wind industry is facing the recurrence of the boom-bust cycle it has seen in previous years when the PTC was allowed to expire.

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David Ward, American Wind Energy Association


The only thing that can save the wind industry is corruption. I say this because over the last several years enough evidence has surfaced against the wind industry to shut down every one of their projects. At the very least a moratorium should in place until honest wind turbine research is conducted because bogus research has been produced by the wind industry for over 28 years. It is still being rigged to hide the truth, yet these projects keep getting approved.

A few months back I looked over the Environmental Impact Report produced for a Wyoming wind project. It was one of the worst such reports I have even read. The writers said they couldn't comment about certain impacts to eagles and other raptors because the property owners would not give them access. A 12 year old could see through right through it, let alone a judge. The project was approved.

The other day I looked a report for the Searchlight Wind Resource area on BLM land in the Mojave Desert. To me the comments about the golden eagle living there are a clear case of silent fraud. Here is what was said........."Golden eagle nests were restricted to cliffs and were located at least 4 miles from the project boundary with 2 of the nests being approximately 10 miles from the project boundary. Based on data from Idaho, golden eagle home range size should not overlap with the project boundary."

The statement that the project should not overlap with the home range of the golden eagle is in my opinion criminal. The dense pocket of eagles living along the food rich Snake River in Idaho has nothing to do with the eagles living in the barren Mojave region. It is well established that an eagle's home range for this desert region is far greater and requires at least 50-100 square miles. A few miles is nothing to an eagle so the food sources and wind currents will bring them right to this planned wind project where they will be killed. The project will not only kill the local eagles, but it will be killing dispersing eagles and migrating eagles. . The history of wind turbines slaughtering golden eagles is well known, yet for a dollar the authors choose to say something else. This is the way it is........All wind farms located in golden eagle habitat will kill these eagles, there are no exceptions. Here is another truth. The wind industry is systematically killing off the golden eagle population across America.

What I just wrote about is typical of the industry's deception that has been going on for decades. Virtually every wind industry document I have ever read has been written with deception or has had research methodology designed to hide the truth. I could provide dozens and dozens of similar examples from all over the country.

Surely enough questions have been raised about the wind industry and enough whooping cranes have disappeared to warrant Congressional hearings about all this. I would love to attend so I could expose anyone willing to stand up and lie about the impacts to golden eagles or to justify the wind industry's ridiculous studies.

But instead of hearings to expose the truth, Congress is considering a multibillion dollar gift from taxpayers in the form of tax credits.

Congress really needs to pay attention because they may have the power but it is really the taxpayers money. These taxpayers are now more educated and they are realizing that the "Green" image promoted by the wind industry has all been a complete fabrication. So if Congress is willing to look past all the lies and give this industry new tax credits, it will send a message of corruption that will resonate for centuries. Their vote will always be linked to the whooping cranes and other species that are quickly disappearing from our skies.