Republicans The Wind Power Saviors?

The production tax credit (PTC) for renewable energy didn’t shrivel up and blow away when Congress failed to include an extension with tax legislation passed earlier this month. The wind industry, which says development will grind to a halt without the PTC, is continuing to push for an extension, and is doing so with what appears to honest-to-goodness bipartisan support.

In fact, most of the noise for this green-energy subsidy seems to be coming from wind-state Republicans, who could end up playing a sort of savior role.

wind turbine noise oregon

image via Shutterstock

One of the most persistent voices calling for the PTC to live on past its Dec. 31 expiration is Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a fierce critic of the Obama agenda—except when it comes to wind. Iowa is a leading wind power state, and King’s 5th Congressional District is home to several large plants.

“Iowa was the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind,” King wrote in an op-ed supporting the PTC extension. “Now, wind supports as many as 5,000 Iowa jobs, and $11 million in annual land lease payments to Iowa farmers. Iowa wind has prompted $300 million in private investment in Iowa manufacturing facilities.”

In deeply red Kansas, support for the PTC comes from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback—joining Republican governors from Iowa [PDF] and Oklahoma [PDF] in backing the extension—and from Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). Moran’s district includes the Hutchinson Wind Energy plant, where Siemens employs more than 350 people to make turbine nacelles.

During a recent visit to the plant, Moran told a local newspaper, “There’s no doubt in my mind if we extend it that this is a job creator. More people will be working and paying taxes and helping get our financial house in order.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • kmartis

      Assume our purpose in building wind turbines is to eliminate
      the Monroe MI coal plant at 3,000 Megawatts, one of the world’s largest. Exelon
      Wind’s policy right now is to build no more than 2  turbines per square mile. Michigan turbines have
      a capacity factor of around 30%. If we build 2 Vestas V-100 1.8 Mw turbines per
      square mile at 30% CF, we would need to cover 2,778 square miles with them. But
      could we then decommission that plant? NO. We have too many windless days. So
      if we tore down the Monroe plant and the wind stopped blowing, we would then
      have to build 3,000Mw  of gas turbines to
      replace it. Nuclear won’t work because it cannot cycle up and down to meet the
      variable output of wind. And since gas is 60% cleaner than coal in the first
      place and we will have to build the gas plants to backup large installations of
      wind anyway, why bother with the wind at all? Especially when you would have to
      cover 2,777 square miles with turbines in the first place? And at a cost of
      16.6 billion dollars, not including infrastructure build out and gas backup

      In the final analysis wind is a parasitic, redundant and
      unreliable power source that can only exist in combination with fossil fuel
      generation. To generate meaningful quantities of wind  energy would require us to carpet most of the
      state with turbines as well as build an equally large number of gas plants. Without
      the gas fired backup or some as of yet to be discovered means to store electricity
      cheaply, wind energy is a pointless transfer of wealth to large conventional utilities
      like FPL and Duke and foreign multinationals like Iberdrola of Spain and Vestas
      of Denmark.