The New York Times
Friday, December 28, 2012
Wind Farm Developers Race Against End of Tax Credit
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON — Forget about parties, resolutions or watching the ball drop. To Iberdrola Renewables, New Year’s Eve will mean checking on last-minute details like the data connections between 169 new wind turbines in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California and its control center in Portland, Ore.
All over the country, developers are in a sprint to get new wind farms up and running before Tuesday, when the federal wind production tax credit will disappear like Cinderella’s ball gown. After that, the nation’s wind-farm building will be at a virtual standstill.
The stakes of meeting the deadline are enormous. Wind turbines that are connected to the grid and in commercial service before midnight on New Year’s Eve are entitled to a 2.2 cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour they generate in their first 10 years, which comes out to about $1 million for a big turbine. As it stands now, those that enter service on Jan. 1 or later are out of luck.
The deadline is a bit like the April 15 one for filing income taxes, but “there are no extensions here,” said Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola. To reduce the risk of missing it — a risk that increases when managing construction projects on mountaintops in New England in the winter — the company allowed more than a year for what are normally nine-month construction projects.
More than just individual projects are at risk; the wind industry says it expects installations to decline by 90 percent next year, with the loss of thousands of jobs. The erratic pattern of wind subsidies has spawned a boom-and-bust cycle, with supplier companies building factories that run at full production for months and then shut down when demand collapses.
The industry has long experience with drop-dead deadlines: since the tax credit began in the early 1990s, it has expired three times, said Elizabeth A. Salerno, director of industry data and analysis at the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group based in Washington. Each time, new installations fell from 73 percent to 93 percent, according to the association.
For more, visit www.nytimes.com.