NORTH EAST – Plans to build a commercial wind farm in eastern Erie County are on hold.
Federal tax credits for wind energy development expired Dec. 31, and that’s affecting financing for new projects, said Johnny Walker, project developer for Pioneer Green Energy. The Texas-based company plans to build up to a dozen commercial wind turbines in North East Township to generate electricity to sell to the power grid. It’s also leased land for turbines in neighboring townships.
“Wind energy is not going away, but the whole industry is kind of on pause right now,” Walker said.
“The production tax credit is the instrument that has been used to finance projects for years. It’s imperative that it’s extended, or the industry is going to have to find another way to fund projects.”
The federal government has offered tax incentives for wind energy development since 1992. The incentives have been set to expire before, but each time were renewed by Congress. That didn’t happen this time, but the industry is continuing to lobby for an extension.
“We’re hoping for a substantial extension sometime this year,” Walker said.
With or without an extension, wind farms already operational or under construction before Dec. 31 will continue to get a $23 subsidy for each megawatt-hour of electricity generated.
Pioneer had planned to begin building the North East wind farm before that deadline but held off while township officials developed a commercial wind district, turbine setback requirements and other rules regulating commercial wind farms. Township supervisors approved those regulations in November.
“It doesn’t make good sense to start construction on a project when you don’t know what the rules governing it are going to be,” Walker said. “But the process basically put the project on hold for eight months and kind of ruined our chances of (starting construction) within the window for the production tax credit.”
That was good news for a group of North East Township residents fighting the proposed wind farm.
“We weren’t counting on the tax credits not being renewed, but we knew that if construction didn’t happen in 2013 and the credit was not extended, it would be to our benefit,” said Matt Putman, of Neighbors for a Responsible North East.
Members of the group are challenging the township’s new wind farm regulations. The North East Township Zoning Hearing Board in February will hear concerns that construction of concrete bases for the turbines could adversely affect local groundwater.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding