US debate over extending PTC continues to create wind power uncertainty

As US citizens prepare for the summer season and federal politicians lobby for votes in the upcoming November election, an increasingly acrimonious debate over extending the nation’s main wind power incentive continues.

On Monday, Nancy Sutley, President Barack Obama’s principal environmental advisor and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, joined other politicians in Saint Paul, Minnesota to highlight the need for Congress to extend the existing Production Tax Credit (PTC).

According to the Pioneer Press, Sutley told people gathered at a local wind turbine that as many as 37,000 jobs will be lost next year, including several hundred in Minnesota, unless Congress acts quickly.

“Delaying action is creating uncertainty,” Sutley was quoted as saying. “Companies are scrapping or delaying plans to build new turbines.”

“If Congress doesn’t act soon, the entire wind energy economy will grind to a halt,” Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, added.

The story added that Obama supports the tax credit, as well as a 30% investment tax credit for manufacturers that invest in equipment to make components for U.S. clean energy projects. Opponents say the tax credits are too expensive and indicate the industry can’t support itself.

The PTC, which currently ends at the end of this year, began in 1992 and gives wind farm a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.

Although the PTC has been extended a number of times, federal politicians have also occasionally allowed it to lapse. Wind power commentators say that uncertainty has put the US wind sector into a series of frenzied boom and bust cycles.

The American Wind Energy Association has said that a recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the PTC would allow the wind turbines sector to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years.

Just last week, the Boulder, Colorado Chamber of Commerce endorsed extending the PTC saying it had been the catalyst behind $10 to $20 billion (€8-16 billion) in private investments in each of the past three years.

Meanwhile, as part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to developing the nation’s renewable energy resources, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Monday in Washington that two major wind energy initiatives have completed important environmental reviews, clearing the way for public comment and final review.

According to a government website, Salazar announced the release of final environmental impact statements for a proposed wind power complex in Wyoming that would generate up to 3,000 megawatts of power, making it the largest wind farm facility in the US and one of the largest in the world.

The press release said that Salazar also announced the publication of an environmental assessment for commercial wind leases and site assessment activities on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“When it comes to wind energy, we’re making significant progress both onshore and offshore to diversify our nation’s domestic energy portfolio and stand up a clean energy economy,” Salazar was quoted as saying.

Chris Rose,