NEXTera, the developer planning a wind farm in Wexford and Osceola counties, has done well with the federal Production Tax Credit, begun in 1992 to allow alternative energies to compete with big utilities.
NEXTera/FPL (Florida Power & Light), a Fortune 200 company, is the eighth-largest power producer in the U.S., primarily from fossil fuels. While most corporations pay about a 30 percent tax rate, NEXTera paid a 1.25 percent tax rate on earnings between 2005 and 2009, thanks to the PTC.
This low tax rate, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, allowed NEXTera to avoid about $2 billion in taxes. Coincidentally, that is just about the cost of NEXTera’s newest power plant – the largest fossil fuel plant in the U.S. – smack in the middle of the environmentally sensitive Everglades.
Michigan is helping fund NEXTera’s fossil fuel operations, since we pay about $79 per megawatt hour (MWh) for “green” energy produced here. We could import it from Iowa (a high-wind state) for about $35 MWh, but Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard forbids out-of-state competition in renewables. Our RPS has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.
The $2.5 billion we have spent developing wind energy in Michigan, frequently in places where the majority of residents don’t want it, could have built enough new gas-fired generators to shut down half of Michigan’s dirtiest coal-fired utilities. Instead, we haven’t closed one because of wind turbines.
Wind energy’s intermittent surges and lags require back-up fossil fuel plants to work harder to even out the flow of power. As Germany has discovered, wind energy can increase, not decrease, pollution when wind drives other utilities from the market.
The only “green” here is cash for producers like NEXTera and landowners who host turbines while destroying their neighbors’ health and property values.
Victoria L. Brehm
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