Despite some bad news in the energy bill signed by President George W. Bush last week, construction will continue on Bureau County’s wind farms, at least for now.
By large margins, both the House and Senate approved the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. Biofuels boosters were heartened by a five-fold increase in the production of ethanol. The mandate for U.S.-grown biofuels is 36 billion gallons per year by 2022, up from the current level of about six billion gallons.
On the other side of the coin, those looking for power from the wind lost out with the loss of the production tax credit.
Despite protests from representatives from the solar and wind industries that losing the PTC and other tax credits will delay growth of the renewable energy industry, developer Stefan Noe said the legislation won’t slow down current projects in Bureau County.
Noe, who developed Providence Heights (formerly Crescent Ridge Midwest), said construction has begun on the 36 turbines planned for that site in southern Bureau County, and any project operating by the end of 2008 will still qualify for the PTC.
Noe, who is no longer involved with the Providence Heights project, said he is currently working hard on the Big Sky wind project, located in northern Bureau and southern Lee counties. Big Sky will have 114 turbines, with 57 of those in Bureau County, and is in the advanced stages of development.
Noe said they hope to be breaking ground on Big Sky after the beginning of the year on certain facets of the project, including infrastructure such as substations and transmission towers. He said they hope to get the infrastructure built during the winter and spring, and start the other facets in the spring.
The project that could be threatened if the PTC isn’t restored is the Walnut Ridge Wind project in northwest Bureau County. Although the project, which would include 150 turbines, most of them in Bureau County, is still being actively developed, Noe said it will not be completed by the end of 2008.
Noe’s not too worried, though.
“I tend to keep the faith that eventually Congress will get in step with public opinion and extend the PTC,” he said. “Unless Congress wants to turn off the faucet, they need to do something to extend the PTC.”
The PTC has consistently been extended since the mid-1990s, and Noe is confident it will be extended again, probably as an attachment to tax legislation or another bill.
The bill has broad bipartisan support, Noe said. In general, the Democrats are more supportive, but Noe said there are a number of Republican legislators who are also in favor of extending the PTC.
While he wasn’t too surprised the extension was not included, Noe said he had been hopeful it might have squeezed through.
“It came close to getting through the House and Senate,” he said.
Even if it had been included in the energy bill, Noe said the president had said he would veto the bill, since the PTC was tied to the removal of existing credits for oil and gas.
Noe is confident the PTC will be extended eventually, but said there could be a problem as next year is an election year, and that could slow things up.
“In the past, the PTC has been allowed to lapse for a couple of months at a time, and it could happen again,” he said.
By Barb Kromphardt
30 December 2007
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