PTC uncertainty threatens wind farm’s benefits to Illinois economy



Illinois’s 23 largest wind farms have generated 19,047 construction and maintenance jobs and will add $5.8 billion to local economies over the lifetime of the projects, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, but the study’s author said further jobs and economic development are threatened by the impending expiration of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC).
“It’s important that decision-makers are educated about the economic development impact wind energy has on state and local communities so that informed decisions regarding future adoption of wind energy projects can be made,” said the Center’s director, David Loomis. He presented his findings at a press conference Tuesday at the sixth annual Advancing Wind Energy in Illinois conference in Normal, Ill.
The report adds that wind farms support about 814 permanent jobs in rural areas with an annual payroll of nearly $48 million. The farms generate $28.5 million in annual property taxes and $13 million a year in extra income for landowners who lease their land to developers.
Planned wind farm projects statewide would mean an additional 12,700 jobs and millions more to local economies through payments to landowners and property tax revenue. But those projects are on hold because of uncertainty about the extension of a federal tax break for wind energy developers. The PTC, which was created in 1992 and helps offset the cost of producing electricity during a wind farm’s first 10 years, is set to expire at the end of this year.
McLean County leads the state with permitted projects, with plans for turbines capable of producing 700 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity, or enough electricity to power about 192,000 homes each year, based on average household use. Livingston County follows with 501.5 MW, Henry at 411.6 MW and Ford with 145 MW.
“In order to keep new jobs coming from wind energy, we need to see important state and federal policies in place,” Loomis said. “We’re on the cusp of seeing real price declines, which is why the subsidy is needed. In three to five years wind energy will be cost competitive with other forms of electrical generation without the subsidy.”
Illinois continues to be a leader in wind energy development, leading the nation in 2011 with 404 turbines installed. The state ranks fourth in the country in wind-powered generating capacity.
The PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale turbines. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it first. A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the Production Tax Credit will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration would kill 37,000 jobs within a year.
A House bill seeking to extend the PTC has 105 cosponsors, including 24 Republicans, while a similar Senate bill is cosponsored by seven Senators, including three Republicans.  PTC extension efforts have received the endorsement of a broad coalition of more than 370 members, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Western Governors’ Association. A PTC extension also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, and the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes 23 Republican and Democratic Governors from across the U.S.  A PTC extension has been endorsed by a number of newspapers across the country, including the Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, the Denver Post, the Daily Oklahoman, and the Toledo Blade.


Tom Gray,