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Election year politics snag Wyoming wind tower plant

"They need to have a little more certainty around the customer base before they start putting in the capital investment," Jensen said. "They are going to make sure they have somebody to sell the towers to. You can't expect a company to lay out capital investment and hire people based on a one-year certainty."

A $40 million wind tower manufacturing plant planned for Cheyenne is being held up because of foot-dragging by Congress on a federal tax credit for wind energy, officials say.

When the joint venture by Worthington Energy Group and Gestamp Renewables to build the Cheyenne plant was announced in February 2011, officials said they would start building the plant later that year, would hire about 150 workers and begin producing up to 300 towers per year by early 2012.

The plant was welcomed by state officials as the first wind energy manufacturing facility built in Wyoming. The venture was put on hold in December 2011 and company officials blamed uncertainty about federal tax credits and transmission projects, according to published reports.

"It's still on hold. There has been no change in status," said Worthington Energy spokesman Sonja Higginbotham.

She said there are a number of issues involved in the delay, including the failure of Congress to extend the federal production tax credits for wind energy resources.

Bob Jensen, executive director of the Wyoming Business Council, said the company has not yet set a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A $40 million wind tower manufacturing plant planned for Cheyenne is being held up because of foot-dragging by Congress on a federal tax credit for wind energy, officials say.

When the joint venture by Worthington Energy Group and Gestamp Renewables to build the Cheyenne plant was announced in February 2011, officials said they would start building the plant later that year, would hire about 150 workers and begin producing up to 300 towers per year by early 2012.

The plant was welcomed by state officials as the first wind energy manufacturing facility built in Wyoming. The venture was put on hold in December 2011 and company officials blamed uncertainty about federal tax credits and transmission projects, according to published reports.

"It's still on hold. There has been no change in status," said Worthington Energy spokesman Sonja Higginbotham.

She said there are a number of issues involved in the delay, including the failure of Congress to extend the federal production tax credits for wind energy resources.

Bob Jensen, executive director of the Wyoming Business Council, said the company has not yet set a new date to start the project because of hesitancy in the wind energy market caused by the delay in the tax credit extension.

He added that he understands that the companies still are committed to the project.

"They need to have a little more certainty around the customer base before they start putting in the capital investment," Jensen said. "They are going to make sure they have somebody to sell the towers to. You can't expect a company to lay out capital investment and hire people based on a one-year certainty."

The extension of the subsidy for renewable energy projects is caught in election year politics, he said.

Jensen said based on the information he receives, there will be no hearing in Congress on the tax credit until after the November elections.

A spokesman for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee said there is no committee activity scheduled on the tax credit extension for renewable energy in the immediate future.

Tucker Fagan, chief of staff for Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said the bill is likely to be part of the "Armageddon" of tax decisions, including extension of the Bush tax cuts, that Congress must deal with before the end of the year.

Peter Kelley is spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association, which represents about 2,500 wind turbine manufacturers, wind developers and others. He said his group is doing everything it can to build bipartisan support to get the tax credit extension by the end of the year.

"It will be very important to get this tax credit extended because our research says 37,000 jobs depend on the tax credit in the next year, or about half the jobs in wind power today in the U.S.," Kelly said.

Critics of the subsidy claim the wind energy projects should be able to attract enough capital to proceed independently if they are financially viable.

Kelly said that the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have received permanent government subsidies for as long as 90 years. Wind power only has one major tax credit.

"In order to have a fair business environment, it needs to be extended," Kelley said. "We've always said we won't need it forever. Right now in order to keep energy growing, it needs to be extended."

Jensen said the tax credit has done did what was intended to do - allow the wind industry to have a subsidy so the companies could have sales while improving their technology.

"That's happened," Jensen said. "The wind turbines are much more efficient than they used to be and will help the wind power industry to compete with other power sources."

The Cheyenne project would also benefit from state assistance. It would be eligible for the state's manufacturing tax exemption.

The state also plans to back the project by issuing $150 million in industrial revenue bonds, in addition to $400,000 for job training, Gov. Matt Mead said earlier.


Source: http://trib.com/news/state-...

JUL 27 2012
http://www.windaction.org/posts/34484-election-year-politics-snag-wyoming-wind-tower-plant
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