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Wind-generated electricity becoming powerful force in the United States; other news

(Friday, April 22, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Wind-generated electricity becoming powerful force in the United States
2. ACGA Praises Introduction of Wind Power Tax Incentives Act of 2005

1. Wind-generated electricity becoming powerful force in the United States

Business Journal Midlands
L. Cheryl Runyon

Each year the world uses more electricity. Wind power offers an environmentally sound energy source that can be an alternative to the use of fossil fuels.

The amount of wind-generated electricity in the United States doubled in fi ve years, reaching nearly 4,700 megawatts by the end of 2002, according to the latest figures available. That is enough to power more than 1.4 million homes.

Nebraska Public Power District has a goal of generating 5 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, balanced with meeting the needs of its customers and being cost-effective.

"A wind facility can reduce the importance of fossil fuel, provide additional revenue to landowners and create jobs in rural areas," said to Gary Thompson, an NPPD director. "I believe NPPD is on its way with wind power and that we will see further use of wind power in Nebraska."

Thompson served on the governor 's Wind Energy Task Force and is a member of the National Wind Coordinating Committee and the Utility Wind Interest Group.

NPPD has contracted with Renewable Energy Systems of Austin, Texas, to build a 36-turbine wind farm across 11,000 acres near Ainsworth; less than 50 acres will be taken out of production. The wind farm is expected to generate 60 mw of electricity -- about 1.7 percent of NPPD's total generated power, enough for 19,000 households. Brian Evans of Renewable Energy Systems said road construction is expected to begin shortly and the wind turbines will be installed in June.

An NPPD study conducted by Western EcoSystems Technology of Cheyenne, Wyo., concluded that the proposed wind facility should not have a significant impact on state or federally listed species, migratory birds or general wildlife. Thompson said NPPD will minimize the construction impact on the Sandhills and will conduct post-development studies once the facility is operational.

Mike Holton of the Center for Rural Affairs said NPPD is trying to incorporate wind power into its energy portfolio while protecting the integrity of the public power system and fulfilling its responsibilities to its customers.

Holton said NPPD can meet new energy demands, reduce customer costs, lessen environmental impacts and provide economic development opportunities for farmers by tapping the wind power resource.

There is environmental opposition to wind farms. Matt Hare, government relations director for the Nebraska Nature Conservancy, is concerned about the lack of state or federal regulation in siting wind farms compared to fossil fuel power plant oversight.

"The footprint of a windmill extends 30 feet below the surface and can affect the habitat of several plant and animal species," Hare said.

The Nature Conservancy, which Hare said is supportive of wind farms, would like wind farm developers to factor the land's conservation value into their deliberations and consider moving the windmills to a less valuable location in the same general area.

"By moving the location, a developer can reduce concerns for plant and animal species," Hare said. "We want to see utilities solve the emissions problem but not cause another environmental problem."

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, increased reliance on wind power depends on the availability of federal and state financial incentives (tax credits) and an expected increase in fossil fuel prices.

The federal renewable energy production incentive provides a tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour for qualifying producers. The federal program sunsets in December, but most observers expect Congress to extend the credit.

State Sen. Matt Connealy said the tax credit is not available to NPPD or municipal utilities.

"I hope Congress extends the credit to the Nebraska Public Power System in the next reauthorization," Connealy said. "I believe a tradable credit would make it easier for our state to be part of a larger wind energy system."

State Sen. Don Preister has sponsored wind power legislation each session since 1993. Preister sees environmental and health benefits from wind energy in comparison to fossil fuels; in addition, "money is not leaving the state to purchase coal from neighboring Wyoming."

Preister believes wind power development will aid rural areas by diversifying land use and providing much needed economic development. LB 189, Preister's 2005 bill, requires 10 percent of energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2017. Preister believes tax credits will be required to assist utilities in developing wind farms.

Dan McGuire, CEO of the American Corn Growers Foundation, sees wind farms as an economic opportunity for Nebraska farmers.

"Wind energy has the potential to be our new cash crop," McGuire said. "Depending on the level of involvement, farmers either could lease their land to developers and receive annual payments of $2,000 to $5,000 per turbine or become windmill investor-owners through a limited liability corporation or cooperative."

Wind power translates into rural economic development opportunities through added tax revenues, employment opportunities and attracting other businesses. The Center for Rural Affairs indicates that "a long-term commitment to the local environment will serve to make a community a more attractive place for economic and community development."

A Feb. 9 American Wind Energy Association study lists Nebraska 19th in installed windmills, capable of generating 14 mw of energy.

The state has 12 turbines at four sites (Springview, Salt Valley, Valley and Kimball) that can power 2,880 homes. The Kimball project, owned by the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, generates 10.5 mw from seven turbines.

The association ranks Nebraska sixth in the country for wind energy potential. The Department of Energy indicates that the Upper Midwest is home to fi ve of the top 10 states in terms of wind power; a large portion of north central Nebraska is rated "outstanding."

2. ACGA Praises Introduction of Wind Power Tax Incentives Act of 2005: Senate Initiative would let individual farmers and others benefit from Wind Production Tax Credit

Contact: Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330

WASHINGTON ≠ April 20, 2005 ≠The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) praised the introduction of the Wind Power Tax Incentives Act of 2005. ACGA President Keith Bolin, a corn and swine farmer from Manlius, Ill., commended Senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Mark Dayton, D-Minn., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for their initiative and leadership in introducing the legislation. The bill is also being supported by the American Agriculture Wind Coalition, the American Wind Energy Association and John Deere.

"Senator Harkinís initiative will allow many more farmers and ranchers to receive the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind," said Bolin. "For the most part, current tax code only allows investor-owned utilities and other publicly-owned entities to receive a 1.8 cent kilowatt-hour credit for electricity they sell in the first 10 years of operating their wind-powered electric generation facility. This bill will help farmers and other individuals to actually own and operate wind turbines and receive the same tax incentive as the large utilities and corporations."

The new legislation (S. 715) would do two basic things. First, the bill allows an individual to use the 1.8 cent credit to reduce the tax on all types of income, not just income from the wind facility and comparable investments. Currently, most farmers are unable to utilize the credit fully because the income from wind-generated electricity would represent only a small portion of their total income. Second, the bill would allow farmers who are members of a cooperative that owns and operates wind turbines for commercial electricity sales to claim a share of the coop's production tax credit on their own tax returns. Current law prevents co-ops from passing the benefit of the tax credit on to their members.

"ACGA fully understands that the initiatives in this bill will greatly benefit Americaís farm families," said Bolin. "We call for a ten-year extension of the PTC as has been advanced by Senator Harkin and others in legislation offered earlier in this Congress."

"The bottom line is that our nation needs a national energy policy which ensures affordability and reliability through diverse, decentralized, domestic and renewable energy sources," concluded Bolin.