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December 15, 2012

Tax credit debate sucking the wind out of wind industry

(Continued)

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. —

In addition, critics from other energy sectors call the wind power tax credit unfair. Some economists say it hurts, rather than helps, the energy market. And some deficit hawks say it should be scrapped with other tax breaks.

The tax credit's fate will have a wide impact on Pennsylvania.

More than 400 turbines in the state produce 3.5 million megawatt-hours of energy a year - enough to power more than 300,000 houses. Nearly three-quarters of those turbines are in central Pennsylvania - in Cambria and Somerset counties, near Johnstown.

The state is encouraging more windmills, said Patrick Henderson, energy executive for Gov. Tom Corbett, through policies such as a requirement that utilities sell a certain amount of energy from alternative and renewable sources.

Also, Pennsylvania is one of few states where a "fully competitive electric choice market" allows alternative energy companies easy access to consumers, said Henderson.

Those rules spur projects such as EverPower's Patton Wind Farm, a cluster of 15 turbines spread over 2,700 acres of farmland north of Johnstown. The facility is scheduled to go on line by the end of the year.

“Some of the farmers said they’re harvesting the wind instead of grain,” said state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton.

Despite such local developments, the wind industry's attention is now fixed on Washington.

“When we look at the path forward for the wind industry, right now, the uncertainty of the production tax credit is an important factor,” said Paul Copleman, spokesman for Iberdrola, which canceled the 24-turbine farm. “Plus, if you look at the state of the energy market, with prices being low, there is not a lot of demand right now.”

---

Dave Sutor is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pa.

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