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Wind power


Moribund wind power projects in the north country and across the country received a one-year lifeline with $12 billion worth of taxpayer subsidized credits in the just-enacted legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff this week.

Developers managed to not only hold onto their expiring 2.2-cents per kilowatt hour credit but saw it broadened to their advantage and that of other alternative energy producers.

The credit that was due to expire Dec. 31 had applied only to wind power projects that started generating electricity by the end of 2012. Now, developers can claim the credit for a full 10 years for any project regardless of when it starts generating electricity as long as construction starts by the end of this year.

The new law extends the tax break to producers of geothermal, hydropower and other renewable energy sources.

The renewal capped a well-organized lobbying campaign that “took 100 members of Congress on tours of wind farms and factories where components are built,” the New York Times noted.

Even so, the tax credit was apparently not all the industry wanted. “It’s not a home run, but it’s a base hit, maybe even a double,” Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association, told the Wall Street Journal.

In the north country and nationwide, wind power projects had slowed in the past year as developers and equipment manufacturers delayed plans out of fear a lapse of the tax credit would leave their projects financially unfeasible. Developers had cut back orders, layoffs had begun and some factories had closed. The industry’s hard push for the one-year reprieve is a tacit admission that the industry still cannot stand on its own and operate profitably without taxpayer subsidies.

However, the “green” energy windfall doesn’t stop there.

The bill renews the $1 per gallon credit for producers of alternative diesel through 2013 at an estimated cost of $2.1 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. The ethanol industry will also get a boost. To foster use of E15, or gasoline made with 15 percent ethanol instead of the 10 percent widely in use now, the tax bill extends through the end of the year a tax credit for gas stations to install fueling equipment for the E15 blend pushed by the industry.

Over the next 10 years, another $3.29 billion will go toward energy-efficiency improvements to homes, investing in equipment to charge electric cars and for manufacturing energy-efficient appliances.

The Times estimated the renewable energy tax credits to be worth $18.1 billion in a win for corporate lobbyists and special interest groups.

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