Congress granted the wind industry a one-year extension of a critical production tax credit in the deal cut at the end of 2012 on the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
But the extension also changed the trigger on when the tax credit can be claimed. Previously, wind farms or other renewable facilities had to be producing electricity to claim the credit. Now, the extension requires them only to “begin construction” before Jan. 1, 2014. How you define “begin construction” has made the situation murky for many wind developers and put some projects on hold.
That changed Monday when the Internal Revenue Service issued 13 pages of rules on what it considers to be construction “by starting physical work of a significant nature.” Wind developers can either meet those construction milestones or spend at least 5 percent of the total project cost by the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline.
The rules say construction has to be related to the actual project. Developers can’t build an access road for construction and expect that the project will qualify by the deadline. But if that road is integral to the operation of the wind farm, then it likely will qualify.
“I think they’ve found the right combination that gives developers an appropriate amount of flexibility for a broad range of project and construction scenarios,” Jacob Susman, founder and chief executive officer of OwnEnergy Inc., a Brooklyn-based builder of wind farms, told Bloomberg. The ruling also protects taxpayers “by ensuring that real projects that have legitimately begun construction will qualify.”
The incentive now gives producers a 2.3 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit, up from 2.2 cents. Along with state renewable energy standards, the tax credit helped push U.S. wind installations to more than 60,000 megawatts by the end of 2012. Oklahoma ranks sixth in the country in wind power capacity with more than 3,100 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association.