Congressional Battle Stalls Wind Power Tax Credit

WASHINGTON, DC, January 28, 2002 (ENS) - New wind farms installed across the United States in 2001 will produce as much electricity annually as 475,000 average American households use, according to a year end analysis by the American Wind Energy Association.

It was a record year, but the ongoing Congressional battle over an economic stimulus package has stalled renewal of the wind production tax credit, stranding hundreds of millions of dollars in wind power investments in states like Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Last year, nearly 1,700 megawatts (MW) of new generating equipment went up in 16 states, installations worth $1.7 billion, the wind industry association said.


Sunset at the Public Service of Colorado Ponnequin Wind Farm (Photo courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
"2001 was an astonishing year for our industry in the U.S.," said AWEA executive director Randall Swisher. "More new wind generation was installed in a single state, Texas, than had ever been installed in the entire country in a single year. We are finally beginning to tap into wind energy's enormous potential."

But prospects for a repeat in 2002 have been thrown into doubt by the expiration of a key incentive, the federal wind production tax credit, which ran out December 31 and has not been renewed by Congress, due to a partisan battle over economic stimulus legislation.

Bills to renew the production tax credit had strong support in both the House of Representatives and Senate, the AWEA said, but were left unpassed when negotiations between the two parties on economic legislation, which included the extension for the credit, broke down shortly before Christmas.

"There are hundreds of megawatts' worth of wind power projects, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in states like Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia, which will not go forward this year unless Congress reinstates the wind energy Production Tax Credit early in this year's session," said Samuel Enfield, vice president of Development for wind developer Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp.

"This has to be done on a timely basis, if we are to be able to plan for and order the long lead time capital equipment that will go into these projects, said Enfield.


The new cash crop, power generated by a wind turbine on Minnesota farm (Photo by Mark Frederickson courtesy Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota)
The wind industry association estimates that power generated by the wind farms established in 2001 will displace emissions of three million tons of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to global warming. The zero emission wind power is expected to displace more than 27,000 tons of noxious air pollutants each year.

The final tally of 1,694 MW installed in 2001 was more than double the previous record year of 1999, when 732 MW was installed, and boosted the industry's total generating capacity by more than 60 percent over the amount in place a year earlier.

Current installed capacity in the United States is now 4,258 MW, and there are wind turbine installations in 26 states. More than 900 MW was installed in 2001 in Texas alone.

The wind farms completed in 2001 will generate approximately $5 million in payments to landowners annually and create some 200 skilled, long term jobs in areas where such employment is scarce.

The trade group urged swift approval of the production tax credit extension, which Swisher called "vital to continuing the industry's momentum."