Deal on 'fiscal cliff' gives wind industry a lifeline

January 4, 2013 by Dana Hull

The wind industry spent most of 2012 begging Congress to extend the production tax credit for utility-scale wind turbines.

Now the industry is breathing a sigh of relief: As part of the tax package passed in the down-to-the-wire drama surrounding the "fiscal cliff," Congress extended the 2.2 cent per for one more year.

Previously, the PTC, or production tax credit, applied only to projects that were fully built and producing electricity. Now it goes to any wind farm that is "under construction" by the end of 2013. The one-year extension is seen as critical to make the wind industry cost-competitive with solar and natural gas.

The employs about 75,000 workers in the United States, and the extension of the credit could save 37,000 jobs, according to the , an industry lobbying group.

"Now we can continue to provide America with more clean, affordable, homegrown energy," Rob Gramlich, the association's interim CEO, said in a statement.

But others warned that the one-year extension, while welcome news, will do little to encourage new wind farm development because of the months required to permit new projects.

"We're in stop-start mode again," said Nancy Rader of the California Wind Energy Association. "A one-year extension helps with projects that are in the pipeline and ready to go. But it doesn't really support any new development. The damage has been done."

California gets about 5 percent of its electricity from wind power, while most of the rest comes from natural gas, nuclear power and hydropower. The state has set an ambitious goal of getting 33 percent of its power from by 2020, and utilities have signed several renewable energy contracts with developers to meet that goal.

The vast majority of wind turbines in California are clustered in three regions: the Altamont Pass between Livermore and Tracy, Tehachapi near Bakersfield and the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs.

Several wind projects came online in California in 2012 as developers raced to get projects completed before the end of the year, including the Montezuma Hills wind farm south of Highway 12 in Solano County.

In June, state and local energy officials and wind developers from NextEra Energy Resources gathered at the Altamont Pass to celebrate completion of the first phase of NextEra's massive "repowering" project, expected to drastically reduce the number of red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and other raptors killed by turbines each year.

"The extension of the wind production tax credit is good news for the industry and our county," said Steve Stengel of NextEra, a Florida-based energy company that owns about half of the wind turbines in the 50,000-acre region known as the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area. "We believe the extension illustrates that there remains bipartisan support for this important tax credit in Congress, and it removes uncertainty in 2013."

NextEra has not disclosed its wind development plans for 2013.

Companies such as GE Energy, Siemens and Vestas, which manufacture , said the long-sought extension of the tax credit was a positive step.

"We look forward to working with our customers and suppliers on wind power projects that will start construction in 2013," said Monika Wood, a spokeswoman for Siemens . "However, many wind project developers had already advanced their orders due to the pending expiration, making 2012 a record year in terms of installations. Therefore, we are currently evaluating the potential impact the extension of the PTC will have in the short term."

Explore further: California hits wind energy milestone: About 5 percent of power from wind


Related Stories

Will wind tax credit blow away?

December 21, 2012

Geronimo Wind Energy recently won regulators' permission to build two wind farms in Minnesota. What happens next for the ventures depends partly on the political winds in the nation's capital.

Wind-power set to continue rapid growth, group says

April 9, 2010

The nation's wind-power industry showed record growth in 2009 and could see dramatic expansion if there was a national "renewable electricity standard," the American Wind Energy Association said in a report released Thursday.

Google backs wind energy in California desert

May 24, 2011

Google on Tuesday said it is investing $55 million into a California wind energy farm, raising to $400 million the amount of money the technology giant has pumped into clean energy projects.

Reducing cash bite of wind power

March 29, 2012

The State of Illinois is facing an important renewable energy deadline in 2025, and Northwestern University's Harold H. Kung has a piece of advice for Springfield to consider now: Investment Tax Credit.

Recommended for you

Click beetles inspire design of self-righting robots

September 25, 2017

Robots perform many tasks that humans can't or don't want to perform, getting around on intricately designed wheels and limbs. If they tip over, however, they are rendered almost useless. A team of University of Illinois ...

New technique spots warning signs of extreme events

September 22, 2017

Many extreme events—from a rogue wave that rises up from calm waters, to an instability inside a gas turbine, to the sudden extinction of a previously hardy wildlife species—seem to occur without warning. It's often impossible ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 05, 2013
This wasn't a "lifeline" it was a bailout/subsidy to a business that wouldn't be as large as it is otherwise. It's taking money from taxpayers to benefit millionaire/billionaire owners of windmill generator firms. And it also leads to higher costs for electricity customers.

The more power the government has to pick winners and losers, the more power the rich will have relative to the rest of us. The rich will pay politicians to make their firms profitable, at our expense. Far better would be for the free market to reward those who offer the most for the least.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2013
This wasn't a "lifeline" it was a bailout/subsidy to a business that wouldn't be as large as it is otherwise.
You mean, it's doing what big oil has done for a century?
not rated yet Jan 05, 2013
What it does, is keeps up the stimulus borrowing, keeps the borrowed money flowing to the unemployed, and those who would otherwise be homeless, and this is keeping the U.S. economy floating.

"This wasn't a "lifeline" it was a bailout/subsidy to a business that wouldn't be as large as it is otherwise. It's taking money from taxpayers to benefit millionaire/billionaire owners of windmill generator firms." - FreeTard

Without it, the U.S. economy would quickly collapse.

The trick is how to ween the U.S. economy off of deficit spending without pushing it into recession or depression.

Republican proposals have the U.S. economy being pushed into a decades long grand economic depression.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2013
The trick is how to ween the U.S. economy off of deficit spending without pushing it into recession or depression.
That would require the government to issue it's own debt-free sovereign money instead of FED debt notes. Presidents backing such programs tend to get shot the day before launch, as well as congresswomen driving to audit the FED.

If you could make a president out of bulletproof materials, you might have a chance. Besides how could a manikin president be worse than Bush?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.