Wind is one of Mother Nature’s most powerful resources.
Its unruly momentum can unleash an unforgiving force of destruction that can severely damage everything in its path.
But when its force is harvested through modern technology and converted into electricity, wind is an unlimited natural resource that can provide jobs, strengthen economies and encourage investments.
Statistics from the American Wind Energy Association tell the story:
- Investing in U.S. wind farms has spurred more than $143 billion in private investment in our economy during the past 10 years.
- Wind energy supports more than 114,000 well-paying jobs, including many manufacturing, construction and technical jobs across the country.
- More than 24,000 U.S. workers in more than 500 factories across 42 states build wind-related parts and materials.
- Rural landowners receive more than a quarter of a billion dollars in lease payments every year for hosting wind turbines, what the association describes as a “drought-resistant cash crop.”
- About 70% of all wind projects are in low-income counties where land lease payments, tax payments and jobs boost local economic prospects.
The numbers become even more meaningful for the Coastal Bend region, which is a prime area for consistently strong winds. And it’s the home of Papalote Creek Wind Farm, which extends for miles between Taft and Odem.
There, about 200 turbines stretch almost 300 feet into the sky and produce enough clean energy to power more than 100,000 homes. The turbines are among thousands that have been installed across the country in the past few decades, particularly in Texas – the nation’s largest wind power producer.
More than 27 gigawatts of wind capacity are online in the state, which has provided more than $46 billion in capital investment and built 46 wind equipment manufacturing facilities, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
However, what helps keep the wind energy industry spinning is a federal tax incentive known as the Production Tax Credit, which is designed to help wind developers access the capital needed to build new wind projects.
During most of 2019, industry experts and observers were expecting the Production Tax Credit to expire on the last day of the year.
However, that changed less than two weeks before the new year when Congress and President Donald Trump made a wise decision and agreed to extend the Production Tax Credit through 2020.
The extension was part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, which continued federal spending into the new year.
No wind farms are online in the Golden Crescent region. The closest wind project under construction is the Cranell Wind Farm in Refugio County, which is expected to be completed by February, according to Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ latest list of interconnection requests.
Construction on the 220 megawatt farm, an E.On Climate & Renewables project, was announced in April after the county and Woodsboro school district made tax abatement agreements with E.On.
The farm was originally slated to be online by Dec. 31, but it was delayed.
“Any opportunity to diversify your economy, and you get an increase in taxable values of peoples’ property, that allows you to have more taxable values ... and provides you new types of jobs. Those are all beneficial,” said Refugio County Judge Robert Blaschke. “It is clean technology, and it has been around for a while, so a number of counties have benefited from it, especially rural communities.”
When considering the positive impact of all renewable resources, it makes sense for lawmakers to prolong all federal tax incentives to encourage the growth of the wind industry as well as solar, storage, offshore wind, electric vehicles and other critical clean energy priorities.
That would be a smart move because those incentives would help diversify our economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.