Business

Wednesday, Jan 02 2013 06:59 PM

Congress renews wind energy credit

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Kern's wind energy industry got the tax credit renewal it was looking for -- and with a welcome twist.

Congress voted late Tuesday to extend the credit through Dec. 31 as part of a wide-ranging measure that avoids the tax increases and spending cuts that had been dubbed the "fiscal cliff."

Wind energy developers, of which the Tehachapi area has many, had warned that the tax credit's expiration would bring a virtual halt to new projects, costing the region untold construction and maintenance jobs.

On Wednesday the industry heralded the 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt hour tax credit as a necessary incentive to job creation.

"The industry is ecstatic with the vote that took place, and it will allow for us to continue our work in Kern County," said Linda Parker, executive director of the Kern Wind Energy Association.

Rob Gramlich, incoming CEO of the 2,000-member American Wind Energy Association, wrote in a news release, "Now we can continue to provide America with more clean, affordable, homegrown energy, and keep growing a new manufacturing sector that's now making nearly 70 percent of our wind turbines in the USA."

People in the business said the credit passed by Congress is actually an improvement on the credit that expired Dec. 31, which only extended to projects that became operational last year. The bill passed Tuesday covers wind energy projects that begin construction in 2013 -- regardless of whether they become operational by the year's end.

That's an important difference, said Daniel Rudnick, project developer for Bakersfield's Jawbone Wind Energy, which has won county approval for 39 megawatts of wind energy generation at the north end of the Tehachapis.

Because of the uncertainty that surrounded the tax credit, Rudnick said, wind energy developers have had a hard time financing their projects and ordering turbines. That resulted in delays that could push some projects' commissioning date beyond the end of this year, he said.

But now that such projects only need to be "under construction" by Dec. 31, he said, many more companies will be able to qualify for the tax credit than would have qualified under the earlier stipulation.

"It's a big deal," he said.

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