Tax credits, transmission lines
considered key for wind farms
May 14 - By Dirk Lammers The Associated
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. Companies looking
to build large wind farms and the electrical transmission
lines to carry the power need more stable tax credits
if they're to invest in the alternative energy source,
a Department of Energy official said Monday.
A look at money spent each year on wind
energy projects during the past decade shows "sort
of this boom-bust cycle" as the Renewable Energy Production
Tax Credit has been allowed to lapse every one or
two years, said Brad Barton, director of commercialization
for the DOE's office of energy efficiency and renewable
The tax credit provides an incentive
of a 2 cent-per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for renewable
electricity production, which makes wind energy more
competitive with other forms of energy such as coal,
hydroelectric and natural gas.
Extending the PTC through 2012, which
was proposed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in a bill
introduced earlier this month, would encourage more
investment in the natural resource, Barton said.
"Investors hate risk," Barton said
during a wind energy round-table in Sioux Falls. "They
are looking for ways to invest in a stable environment."
Thune, who hosted the event, said harnessing
wind power from rural areas of South Dakota and getting
it where it's needed presents many challenges.
"Meeting these challenges will not
be cheap. It will not be easy," Thune said. "However,
if our nation is serious about energy dependency,
we must make a serious national investment."
Barton said wind turbines in South Dakota
produce about 44 megawatts of electricity, and another
94 megawatts are on the drawing board. That's a far
cry from the 566,000 megawatts of electricity the
windy prairies of South Dakota could be producing.
"So we're not even scratching the surface
and there's just so much potential and so much opportunity
here, and that's what we're trying to get across,"
The biggest impediment to getting wind
power to customers is transmission, said Brian Parsons,
wind applications project manager at the National
Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
"To get it from the windy areas to the
load center and out-of-state markets is really the
critical part," Parsons said. "It's going to make
it or break it for wind in South Dakota."
Wind power has grown from almost nothing
in 1980 to generating 11,605 megawatts of electricity
in the United States in 2006, still less than 1 percent
of the national power supply.
It could produce from 2 percent to 7
percent of the nation's electricity within 15 years,
according to a new congressionally mandated report.
Wind on the Wires, which works to overcome
transmission barriers to bring wind power to market,
would like to see the federal government adopt a renewable
portfolio standard, said Beth Soholt, the nonprofit
Mandating that 15 percent of the nation's
energy come from wind by 2015 would be a driver for
wind development in South Dakota and across the country,
"A federal RPS is really market driven
and it's a very effective way to actually develop
a good public policy," she said.