December 5, 2011
Q&A on Wind Energy
Q: What’s the outlook for wind energy?
A: Wind energy is a valuable source of renewable energy, and the federal tax credit for wind energy production should be extended beyond its scheduled expiration date of December 31, 2012. In addition, the tax credit should be extended for long enough to give investors certainty, in order to maximize the opportunities. Wind is free, inexhaustible and environmentally friendly. There’s good reason to foster more extensive development of this alternative energy source. Many top-performing wind farms can generate electricity that’s nearly cost-competitive with new coal- or natural gas-fired power plants. Conventional energy sources, including oil and gas, enjoy countless preferential tax policies, and most of them are permanent law. Any argument made for eliminating renewable energy tax incentives is intellectually dishonest if it doesn’t include a review of all energy tax incentives.
Q: How exactly does the tax code encourage economic activity related to alternative energy?
A: Tax incentives to level the playing field for renewable resources have helped grow wind energy from almost non-existent to the success story of today. In 1992, I authored and won enactment of the first-ever wind production tax credit. This incentive gave the then-fledgling wind energy industry the ability to compete against coal-fired and nuclear energy. Developers depend on the production tax credit to improve a renewable energy facility’s cost effectiveness by freeing up money for investment. I’ve worked to extend and expand the incentive several times. Separately, I worked for the enactment of a comparable incentive for municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and even hospitals and schools to get in the wind energy business with Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.
Q: What are the results?
A: Iowa is second in the nation, behind only Texas, in installed wind energy capacity. Iowa currently generates 20 percent of its electricity needs from wind. This energy powers the equivalent of 1 million homes. There are nearly 3,000 utility-scale turbines in Iowa. They generate lease payments to landowners worth $12.5 million annually. Iowa is a leader in manufacturing wind energy equipment. There are major wind manufacturing facilities in Newton, West Branch, Cedar Rapids and Fort Madison. Iowa’s wind energy industry employs 3,000 full-time workers, and Iowa’s outstanding workforce and its wind energy potential are a great combination. We grow a lot of things in Iowa. It’s wonderful to see Iowa growing rapidly as a producer of wind energy and wind equipment manufacturing.