Wind tax credit deadline could "kill the industry" in Colorado

DENVER - For as far as the eye can see, there is only open prairie and a steady wind.

This has made this isolated section of land, straddling the Wyoming border in Weld County, the ideal location for Xcel Energy's Ponnequin Wind Farm.

The wind farm has 44 turbines constantly turning, churning thousands of megawatts of electricity to its Colorado customers.

Between its wind farms and purchasing the renewable energy from other providers, Xcel Energy has enough electricity to power half a million homes daily.

"We're going to have 20 percent of our energy delivered through wind resources this year in Colorado," said Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke.


Wind Power Growing Colorado Industry

It isn't just Xcel Energy that is harnessing the wind in the Rocky Mountain state. According to the Colorado Energy Office, there are 16 companies in the state that are manufacturing parts that are crucial to the wind industry, with two more expected to come online in 2013.

"We have put out a sign to the wind industry that we want you here in Colorado," said Tracee Bentley, Director of policy for Colorado Energy Office.

But a stalemate over extending the wind energy tax credit in the U.S. Congress could put the industry and up to 6,000 jobs in jeopardy.

"It wouldn't have an immediate impact on our customers,' Fowke said. "That's the good news. The bad news is it would have an immediate impact on the wind industry."

The wind tax rebate is for 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour produced. Nationally it has been estimated to be a tax credit of close to $1 billion.

"All energy sources are subsidized one way or another," said Sandy Butterfield, cofounder of Boulder Wind Power. Boulder Wind Power engineers a new type of generator and power conversion system that makes wind industry more affordable and wind turbines longer lasting.

"We've had a reasonably good run. We're right at the crest of being competitive with fossil fuels and yet we're ready to turn the switch off. And if it is turned off in January, it will kill the industry."

Fowke said Xcel Energy has made a large investment in wind power because it was something its customers wanted and it made good business sense.

"It gives us a diversified fuel portfolio. We don't have all of our eggs in one basket. And I think that is a great thing for us and Colorado."

Butterfield said the wind industry isn't looking for a limitless tax rebate. But now is not the time to pull the rug from underneath the industry.

"The one thing we all agree on is that if we kill it in January, that would be a disaster," he said. "Certainly a full extension at least for two years I think is absolutely necessary."

Bentley said every member of Colorado's congressional delegation has been on record as saying they support the wind tax production rebate. Industry experts have said they expect the matter to be addressed during Congress' lame duck session after the General Election.


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