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Area wind farm projects on hold as tax credit expiration looms ahead

Wind farms proposed in the region are on hold as the future of a wind energy tax credit remains in limbo.

The proposed 150-megawatt Panther Creek Wind Farm is currently on hold as Congress has not indicated whether it would extend the credit.

Trey Goede, founder and CEO of Affinity Wind, which was developing the $250 million wind farm, said it was put on hold after it became clear that the project would not be operational by year’s end to take advantage of the tax credits.

“We’re hoping for the best just like the rest of the industry,” he said. “It’s an absolute shame that the federal government is allowing this to happen but it is what it is.”

The wind energy tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year, provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of production of wind farms. The tax credit was introduced in 1992 and has been renewed three previous times.

“Why now at the height of renewable attractiveness are we allowing that subsidy to expire after so many companies have invested into the U.S. market,” Goede said. “It’s just shocking to me.”

Goede said the Panther Creek project was construction ready after the company obtained the proper permits from Pike County and interconnection agreement with Prairie Power.

In Adams County, the 144-megawatt Prairie Mills Wind Farm proposed for the northeast portion of the county also remains on hold.

Phil Conover, interim president of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn, said GREDF has not received any updates on the status of the Prairie Mills Wind Farm.

The last time the county was updated on the project was at GREDF’s annual meeting in January 2011 when Global Winds Harvest announced it would take complete ownership of the project, which had previously been a joint venture with Acciona Energy North America.

Erich Bachmeyer, vice president of development for Global Winds, said the project is in the same difficult position as the wind energy industry as a whole.

“This project won’t be able to continue without the extension,” he said.

Goede said with the uncertainty of the tax credit extension, the industry is grinding to a halt, including the layoffs of 407 workers last week at the Siemens wind turbine plant in Fort Madison, Iowa.

“You can’t just turn that stuff back on,” he said. “In a best case scenario, if it now gets extended … we’ve lost 12 to 18 months worth of production. Next year is going to be terrible regardless, because you can’t plan a wind farm in 12 months.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.