Blowin’ in the Wind: Why Alabamians Should Care About Wind Subsidies

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

“Madame, bear in mind that princes govern all things–save the wind” ~Victor Hugo

China is on track to have twice as much of it as we do now by 2015.[i] Politicians, who seem to generate a great deal of it themselves, are arguing over whether it should stay or go here in the U.S.[ii] I’m talking about wind power capacity—and the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) that makes it possible.

I suspect that, to the average Alabamian, assisting the wind farms of the Midwest does not rank high on a to-do list. It’s not like anyone is going to be putting a wind farm in Alabama anytime soon. (Or are they?[iii]) But Alabama wind farms or no, here are three good reasons why Alabamians should support an extension of the PTC:

  •  The PTC supports existing wind jobs—right here in Alabama. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), there are at least seven Alabama manufacturing facilities and 101-500 direct jobs currently producing components for the wind industry. AWEA goes on to say that, “Alabama’s potential manufacturing job creation from the wind industry ranks in the top 15 in the US.”
  • Wind powers homes—right here in Alabama. Just because it’s not produced here doesn’t mean it can’t power homes here. Wouldn’t you rather have your lights powered by clean Midwestern wind farms rather than dirty Alabama coal plants? Thanks to renewable energy credits and green power purchasing agreements, they can be.
  • Even if there were no Alabama wind jobs or power, the PTC and renewable wind energy would still make Alabama a better, safer place to live. According to the American Wind Energy Association, 1 megawatt (MW) of wind-generated power can supply electricity to approximately 240 to 300 households per year. As a “fuel,” wind is both free and clean. And we now have approximately 50,000 MW of it installed. Imagine that… as many as 15 million homes being powered by something that doesn’t have to be mined, pumped, refined, shipped, or even burned to generate electricity. A free fuel that doesn’t generate pollution—not even global-warming carbon dioxide. A free fuel that doesn’t come from Middle Eastern oil fields or Canadian tar sands, because the wind blows right here in the good old USA. I call that a USA win, including Alabama.

Of course, even 15 million households is still a drop in America’s bucket. We need more wind power, not less; but less is what we’re getting, as the political wrangling over the PTC extension is costing us good wind jobs.[iv]

According to MIT’s Technology Review, “The [PTC] policy was originally established in 1992 as part of an energy bill signed by President George H. W. Bush. It gave a tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to generators of certain types of renewable electricity, including that from wind. The credit expired in July 1999, and since then has been renewed, expired, and been renewed again several times, with several months-long lapses in between. The rate has been adjusted for inflation and is now 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.”[v]

In the heated rhetoric of presidential campaigning, the PTC has become a political punching bag for the party that once championed the conservation of energy and natural resources as part of its conservative platform. But a free market needs wind power—not the worsening economic turmoil of our current oil addiction—and wind power desperately needs the PTC to help get it up and running. I hope you will let Alabama’s elected representatives know how you feel on this issue.

“If the winds of fortune are temporarily blowing against you, remember that you can harness them and make them carry you toward your definite purpose, through the use of your imagination.” ~Napolean Hill

by Kyle Crider

Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at kyle.crider@ecotechinstitute.com.
[1] http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-16/china-s-wind-power-capacity-linked-to-grid-up-87-percent-xinhua-says

[1] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/17/705921/republican-senator-on-romneys-anti-wind-position-it-was-like-a-knife-in-my-back/

[1] http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/06/bringing-wind-to-the-southeast

[1] http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-08-20/energy-week-ahead-vestas-may-offer-plan-for-colorado-job-cuts

[1] http://www.technologyreview.com/news/428927/does-the-wind-production-tax-credit-matter/

5 Responses to Blowin’ in the Wind: Why Alabamians Should Care About Wind Subsidies

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