The Department of Energy released a report this month saying its grant program for wind and solar projects saved or created an estimated 52,000 to 75,000 jobs from 2009 to 2011.
The 2009 federal stimulus bill included $9 billion in grants for wind, solar and other renewable power projects. Known as the Section 1603 program, the grants went to more than 23,000 wind and solar projects across the country. The program was designed to replace tax-equity financing that dried up during the banking crisis in 2008. Developers took the grants instead of existing tax credits for wind or solar.
Oklahoma projects received more than $246.8 million (less than 3 percent), according to the Treasury Department, which administered the program. Here’s a list of the grantees:
The preliminary report said the grant program spurred about $30 billion in total investment from private, state and local sources for renewable energy projects.
Although the primary intent of the §1603 program was to minimize the impact of the weakened tax equity market on renewable project development, by providing project developers with an alternative way to recoup the value of the tax incentives, it ensured that development of renewable energy projects, and the jobs and economic benefits associated with those projects, were not hindered by weak tax equity markets.
Of course, like any economic report that attempts to measure jobs, the report includes some important caveats:
Some projects supported by §1603 awards may still have been implemented without the availability of the award, while others may have progressed only as a direct result of the program.
Add the National Governors Association to the list of those lobbying for extension of a federal production tax credit for wind.
The association sent a letter Wednesday to Congressional leaders urging them to extend the tax credit beyond its Dec. 31 expiration. The incentive allows for a 2.2 cents tax credit per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by wind. The industry and some lawmakers have said the extension is vital to stop a boom-and-bust cycle in wind energy production.
In the letter, NGA said predictable tax policies were needed to encourage clean energy across the country. It urged renewal of the production tax credit (PTC) and an associated investment tax credit (ITC).
Predictable tax policies provide a foundation for renewable energy development and can play an important role in our nation’s economic recovery. Therefore we are encouraging an extension of the both the PTC and ITC for at least 4 years. These tax credits can continue to encourage robust investment and deployment of renewable technologies by affording industry a reliable investment framework within which to operate.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin earlier signed a similar letter to congressional leaders in February advocating an extension of the wind production tax credit.
With Opening Day just around the corner, the Cleveland Indians have become the first major-league baseball club to install a wind turbine at their ballpark.
The Associated Press reports the club put in a new corkscrew-shaped wind turbine at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The turbine was designed by a professor at Cleveland State University. Development of the turbine was funded by federal and state grants.
From the AP:
“With this project we hope to not only benefit the environment by increasing our use of renewable energy, but also help an impressive new technology generate local jobs by taking advantage of Cleveland’s great manufacturing workforce and factories,” said Brad Mohr, assistant director of ballpark operations. “Working together with Cleveland State, we can take advantage of this great opportunity to continue to teach our fans about clean energy technologies.”
This screenshot doesn’t do it justice, but take a minute and click on the image above for a nice interactive of current wind speeds across the continental United States. The map, by Google data visualization group leaders Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, takes data from the National Weather Service’s National Digital Forecast Database.
The guidelines set up a tiered approach for developers to use in siting wind farms, during construction and after wind turbines become operational. They are the result of a five-year effort by the Interior Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In a conference call with reporters, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the voluntary nature of the guidelines were similar in their approach to wildlife protection as those for other energy sectors such as oil and gas and electricity transmission. Companies that follow the guidelines in good faith won’t be subject to legal enforcement by the department.
Definitive statistics on the number of birds killed by wind towers are hard to come by, but a 2008 study estimated more than 440,000 birds are killed each year. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said changes in technology and the replacement of the first generation of wind turbines from 30 years ago likely mean that figure is now much lower. Ashe said it was more important to know where and what kinds of birds were dying as a result of collisions with wind towers.
The guidelines (fact sheet) drew praise from both the Audubon Society and the American Wind Energy Association. They apply to wind projects on private and public lands.
“We know America needs more renewable energy and wind power is a key player in that mix. But conservationists can’t have it both ways: we can’t say we need renewable energy and then say there’s nowhere safe to put the wind farms,” said David Yarnold, president & CEO of Audubon, in a statement. “By collaborating with conservationists instead of slugging it out, the wind power industry gains vital support to expand and create jobs, and wildlife gets the protection crucial for survival. These federal guidelines are a game-changer and big win for both wildlife and clean energy.”
Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association said the voluntary guidelines set high standards for developers.
“It is our hope that in conjunction with rapid training and sensible implementation, the guidelines will promote improved siting practices and increased wildlife protection that in turn will foster the continued rapid growth of wind energy across the nation,” Bode said in a statement.
Undaunted by its failure earlier this week, a bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to extend the federal wind production tax.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and six other senators are sponsoring the American Energy and Job Promotion Act. It would extend the wind production tax another two years, until the end of 2014. The tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31. It gives 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit for wind energy production.
Grassley was the original author of the wind production tax credit back in 1992. Since then it’s been extended several times. But it also failed to get renewed on three occasions. The wind-power industry and interest groups say that uncertainty contributes to a boom-and-bust cycle of development. Critics, however, say it’s proof that the industry wouldn’t exist without government support.
The Senate deadlocked, 49-49, earlier this week in an extension of the wind production tax credit that was tacked onto a transportation bill. The amendment needed 60 votes for further action.
For more on the wind production tax credit, check out this December story by my colleague Jay F. Marks.
Senators failed to pass an amendment this afternoon that would have extended some federal tax credits for wind power and other renewable energy initiatives.
The amendment by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, needed 60 votes to advance. The vote was 49-49, largely along party lines. Three Democrats voted against the measure.
Oklahoma’s Republican senators, Dr. Tom Coburn and Sen. Jim Inhofe, both voted against the amendment.
Included in the amendment was an extension of the production tax credit for wind and a 30 percent tax credit for manufacturers that retool their factories to make equipment for clean energy production, according to a statement from Stabenow’s office on March 8. The measure also covered incentives for biodiesel production.
In a statement, former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode said renewable energy initiatives still have bipartisan support. Bode now heads up the the American Wind Energy Association:
“We are disappointed that tens of thousands of American jobs are being put in peril by partisan gridlock in Washington. Despite the partisan vote on these broader energy amendments, the fact remains that the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) enjoys bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
“The clock is ticking and the stakes for a timely extension of the PTC could not be clearer. We stand to lose one of America’s best new sources of American manufacturing jobs. With every day that goes by, layoffs are occurring and further job losses and even plant closings will accelerate with each month we near expiration in December. Economic studies have shown that Congressional inaction on the PTC could kill 37,000 American jobs, shutter plants and cancel billions of dollars in private investment.”
Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation argued that tax incentives for energy production distort the free market and campaigned against the Stabenow amendment. The group called it an extension of the 2009 economic stimulus package:
For decades, various alternative energy industries have claimed that subsidies were needed to jumpstart their nascent industry. Wind, for example, has been making the claim for 20 years. Yet, since the production tax credit came online in 1992, wind accounts for only 2.3% of America’s electricity.