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Groups unite to urge support of wind power

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 01/02/2013 3:29 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS — A coalition of Minnesota business leaders, elected officials, sportsmens' groups and environmental organizations have come together to urge support of the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit and the Offshore Wind Investment Tax Credit.

Both are among hundreds of tax credits due to expire at the end of 2012.

"Clean energy, including wind power, is an important part of our state, creating pollution-free energy, saving water and supporting local jobs," said Ken Bradley, Environment Minnesota program director.

There are 2,000 jobs in Minnesota in the wind industry and 37,000 nationwide that are at risk with the loss of these tax credits, Bradley said in conference call last week.

The Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit provides a 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour tax credit for tax equity investors, said Aaron Peterson, community relations and regulatory affairs manager for juwi Wind. Peterson is a former state legislator and author of the state's Renewable Electricity Standard.

"Minnesota has led the way in terms of clean energy alternatives and we can not afford to stop now," said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.

Sportsmen support the extension of the tax credit because they are concerned about the weather impacts of burning fossil fuels, Botzek said. Sportsmen see the effects of climate change when they are hunting and fishing, he said. Something is going on when there is flooding in Duluth and extreme drought conditions in other parts of the state.

Wind energy displaces 68 million metric tons of global warming pollution each year, Bradley said. That's the same amount of pollution that 13 million cars would produce. Wind energy also saves more than enough water to meet the needs of a city the size of Boston when compared to traditional fossil fuel energy generation, he said. Air pollution from power plants threatens the health of millions of Americans, Bradley said.

The possible end of the tax credit has already had an impact in the industry, Peterson said. The manufacturers who make turbines have ceased production. They purchased the last towers out of DMI in Fargo, N.D., before the plant closed. The towers were installed in southwest Minnesota.

The trio called on people who live in Congressional districts home to a wind farm to contact their congressperson and pledge support for the production tax credit.

The vast majority of wind farms, 80 percent, are located in areas represented by Republicans, Peterson said.

Subsidies for fossil fuels are permanent and written into the tax code, Bradley said, so there is no discussion on their merits every couple years like there is with renewable energy tax credits.