INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Officials with Indiana's wind energy industry say they are relieved by Congress' one-year extension of a tax credit but contend it will take a longer-term approach to grow the business and create jobs in the state.
The legislation signed earlier this week by President Barack Obama averting the fiscal cliff extended a wind energy production tax credit to projects that begin construction in 2013, but entrepreneur Noel Davis likened that to playing a single quarter of football instead of a complete game.
A project like the Wildcat Wind Farm going up in north central Indiana needs years to collect and analyze wind readings, perform economic studies, design a project, and secure land rights before starting to build.
"It takes a long time to do that," Davis said. "Something like that cannot be done in one year."
The uncertainty over long-term tax incentives has kept Indiana's wind energy industry from fully taking off despite the promise of projects such as Wildcat and the 303-turbine, 500-megawatt-capacity Meadow Lake Wind Farm in White County that have helped produce the 13th largest installed wind power capacity among states. As of Wednesday, Indiana had 930 turbines producing 1,543 megawatts of electricity, according to the Indiana Office of Energy Development.
The 2.2 cent-per-kilowatt tax credit was established in 1992, and some in Congress, including Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., sought its elimination as a costly subsidy to an "intermittent resource."
Wildcat's developer, E-on Climate & Renewables, raced to finish its 125-turbine first phase in Tipton and Madison counties, about 40 miles north of Indianapolis, by the end of 2012 out of fear the credit wouldn't be renewed. Now that it has, it still needs to develop site plans and secure land rights for 200 more turbines in Howard and Grant counties, project manager Andy Melka said recently.
The uncertainty also has stalled job growth among manufacturers despite Indiana's manufacturing-heavy economy. Italy-based Brevini Wind announced plans in 2009 for a 450-worker factory in Muncie that would build turbine gearboxes, but it had only 70 workers by last year and has until the end this year to reach 250 jobs to receive $1.7 million in tax-increment financing revenue from Delaware County.