The ugly bill to defuse the new year’s time bomb of tax hikes and spending cuts had a few pluses for Kansas, chief among them the extension of the production tax credit for wind-energy projects that begin construction in 2013.
“Gov. (Sam) Brownback is pleased Congress recognized the positive impact the wind PTC has on creating jobs and growing the economy,” Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor’s spokeswoman, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The American Wind Energy Association estimates the PTC extension will save as many as 37,000 jobs nationally – though that’s no comfort for the workers, including 256 at Hutchinson’s Siemens Energy plant, who were laid off in anticipation of the credit’s sunset.
Brownback had joined 27 other governors to advocate for the PTC, which has been key to the $3 billion investment in wind power that the state saw in 2011 and 2012. One study also found that Kansas landowners had received $273 million in income by leasing land for the wind turbines.
Not coincidentally to the extension debate, the state’s largest wind farm started operation on New Year’s Eve, ensuring it would get the benefit of the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour incentive regardless of whether Congress acted. The $800 million Flat Ridge 2 Wind Farm, owned by BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas and Power, consists of 294 turbines across 66,000 acres spanning parts of Harper, Barber, Kingman and Sumner counties. Its 470 megawatts of electricity will be exported to Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.
As Brownback said when construction began last April: “Our state has a rich abundance of this homegrown, renewable energy and we are happy to add it to our list of Kansas export commodities alongside oil and natural gas, beef and wheat.”
Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., also supported the PTC extension, while Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, has been perhaps it loudest critic in Congress. Many other Kansans would join Pompeo in calling for the wind industry to move off the taxpayer dole and stand on its own, especially as the focus turns to cutting the budget deficits and federal debt.
But more time to wean the industry off the PTC will mean more jobs for Kansas. It has the second-best wind resources in the country but ranks ninth in wind-energy installations, with 2,192 megawatts of wind-energy capacity before Flat Ridge 2 came online.
The PTC extension should keep the wind projects coming for now, and ensure Kansas remains on the leading edge of an industry that outpaced natural gas and coal in new power generation last year.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman