World's Largest Community Wind Farm Forms in Texas, Legislation Introduced to Renew PTC

Four wind farms planned for Texas are being combined into one, forming the world’s largest community-owned wind farm.

Hale Community Energy LLC will be the umbrella for four wind farms that total 1.1 gigawatts of energy, being developed by Tri Global Energy. The wind farms will be spread across 123,000 acres leased from 340 landowners of farm and ranch land.

450 local investors have purchased shares.

Why are they doing this? "This joint venture will save about $5 million in future development costs while reducing the political risk tremendously as well as the tax liabilities, since it will be one contiguous wind farm with common ownership," Curtis King, Tri-Global’s senior vice president for shareholder relations told McClatchy-Tribune Regional News.

Wind Farm: Hale County, Texas

And by combining the projects they will all qualify for the wind production tax credit if construction begins on any of them by the end of this year.  They must also prove that 5% of project costs have been incurred.

Their plan is for 200 megawatts (MW) to be operational in 2015 and the entire project finished by mid-2018.

Boom and Bust Returns

Yes, that the critical wind production tax credit is about to expire again and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced a bill to extend it before the August recess. 

"The PTC Certainty and Phase-Out Act of 2013" (H.R.2987) would extend the tax credit for another six years and then phase it out for good. 

"This bill gives wind energy producers a six year window to make this alternative form of energy work on market-based principles," says Fitzpatrick. "Half a century ago, we put a man on the moon in under a decade; this bill will provide a stable window for today’s wind energy entrepreneurs to make this technology work affordably.  This bill positions them for achieving success."

It gives the certainty the wind industry need, he says.

Last year, as the fight over whether to extend the PTC reached the final hours, the American Wind Energy Association offered the same phase-out plan as a way to get it renewed.

To level the playing field with conventional energy, Obama’s Science Advisors recommend broadening the tax credit for wind to include all forms of renewable energy and replacing the annual renewal with a longer time horizon of 5-10 years.

As of early 2013, installed wind capacity was enough to supply 6% of US electricity. There were lots of layoffs in advance of the expiring credit and since it was renewed, the industry is taking off again.

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