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Policies the Key to Experiencing Full Benefits of Wind Development in Rural America

Policies the Key to Experiencing Full Benefits of Wind Development in Rural America

Date: 12/15/2009

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with John Moore, Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney (MP3 1.4 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:03.

As many states are already learning, wind energy development presents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth. Environmental Law and Policy Center Senior Attorney John Moore says that's especially true for the Midwest.

ELPC has created a series of reports on the positive impact the wind supply chain will have on the Midwest economy including a 2001 report on "Repowering the Midwest." Moore says it's really a plan to seize the opportunities that come with clean energy development.

"Wind power and other renewable energy are great solutions for diversifying income, improving environmental quality and overall rural economic development. So we thought about the different kinds of policies that could help most spur these technologies forward, including wind power."

According to Moore, several government policies have already helped spur the development of wind power in rural America.

"I think the production tax credit early on was a significant catalyst for more wind power. The Rural Energy for America Program — REAP — has also helped, especially with community wind projects. And then the Treasury Grant Program, which was in the Recovery Act, also is important. The thing about wind power development is that the capital cost upfront is expensive, so just getting that initial capital cost accounted for and paid for is the hurdle that most people face. That's why these incentive programs are important, because over the long-run it's a very low cost, low fuel cost energy source and it doesn't have any carbon cost."

Moore adds financial incentives offered by individual states also help defray the initial costs of wind projects.

Some states also have renewable energy standards in place. That's one policy Moore says is still needed if rural America is to enjoy the full benefits and deployment of wind — a strong federal renewable energy standard. He notes Congress is currently working on that as part of the climate bill. But Moore believes other action is necessary.

"I think tax reform is also important. Less than a dozen large investment companies really have enough of a tax appetite to use the production tax credit and make it worthwhile. And so we have a situation where we've seen large investment companies like Goldman Sachs actually owning wind farms. While helping to move wind power forward in general, that kind of a policy makes it really hard for local owners, local developers and other investors to take advantage and invest in renewable energy projects."

Then there's the existing Treasury Grant Program mentioned earlier. Moore suggests that should be extended by at least a couple more years. He says it would help move wind projects forward.

As for those land owners and rural organizations that have an interest in taking part in the wind energy future, Moore offers some advice. For one, support the continuation of important policies like USDA's REAP — the Rural Energy for America program. But also seek out reputable business partners and experienced developers who know how to make wind projects happen. Moore also suggests connecting with those in other states; learn from their successes and mistakes.

This information was last updated on December 15, 2009