Wildcat construction crews race to build wind turbines

September 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

ELWOOD, Ind. —
Construction crews at Wildcat Wind Farm are racing to build 125 wind turbines and begin generating electricity while Congress debates whether to renew a federal tax credit set to expire on Dec. 31.

Proponents of wind power say the production tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour produced is vital to the industry’s continued growth.

“We have eight turbines fully erected and all our foundations completed,” as of late last week, said Matt Tulis, spokesman for E.ON Climate Renewables, which has invested $400 million to developed the 200-megawatt project spread across 8,500 acres in Madison, Tipton and Grant counties.

And that’s supposed to be just the first phase of the project.

Phase two will be located in Howard and Grant counties, with up to 65 more turbines generating 100 megawatts of power. Phase three, also in Howard and Grant counties, would involve construction of an additional 125 turbines capable of generating up to 120 megawatts of electricity.

“We definitely like this area and we’re looking at developing more,” Tulis said. While the failure of Congress to pass an extension is a concern, he said the company remains optimistic the tax credit, which has been in existence for 20 years, will be extended.

Whether the tax credit is extended or not won’t have an impact on how much tax revenue Madison County receives from the Wildcat project, because that’s all covered through contracts with the county and landowners that “are signed, sealed and delivered,” said Madison County Attorney Gerald Shine.

Projections showed the project would generate $11 million in property tax revenue over 10 years, however a tax abatement package approved by the County Council will lower the actual taxes due to about $5.1 million.

In addition, E.ON will pay county landowners $20 to $25 million over 30 years, which is the expected lifespan of the turbines.

As of Wednesday, 805 Indiana wind turbines are producing 1,343-megawatts of electricity, according to the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

The American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group, says lack of action by Congress and the prospect that the tax credit, called PTC, won’t be addressed until after the Nov. 6 election, is already causing layoffs by companies in the development and manufacturing sectors of the wind energy industry.

Siemens Wind Power, a leading manufacturer of wind turbines, last week laid off more than 1,000 workers at its Kansas, Iowa and Florida facilities, according to the association.

“This business decision was necessary to respond to market conditions that are beyond our control and affecting the entire U.S. wind power industry,” Siemens said in a statement, the association said.

Other companies are closing their doors as well, according to press reports.

According to a study paid for by the association, 37,000 Americans may lose their jobs by the end of the first quarter of 2013 if Congress does not extend the PTC.

Ellen Carey, a spokeswoman for the association, said wind energy has been a manufacturing success story for the country.

In 2005, she said, 25 percent of the components used in making wind turbines came from domestic manufacturers; in 2012 that figure is nearly 70 percent.

In 2011, wind turbines produced 2.9 percent of the nation’s electricity. In the past five years 35 percent of all new electric generation came from wind power, according to the association.

“We’ve really been a success story,” Carey said.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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