Common-sense, market-based federal and state policies are why wind power is now the mainstream source of electricity it is today.
Wind now provides enough energy to power the equivalent of 15.5 million average American homes, affordably and with no emissions. Wind is lowering power prices for consumers, bringing capital investment to rural communities, providing much-needed tax revenue to governments and schools, creating jobs, conserving water, and providing new revenue streams to drought-stricken farmers and ranchers. Wind is helping lead a domestic renewable energy renaissance, revitalizing economies in local communities across our country, including in my home state of Texas.
In order to continue adding to wind’s great return on investment, Congress must extend the tax relief for new wind power growth by passing the EXPIRE Act, which includes an extension of both the successful, bipartisan renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Doing so will reduce the tax burden on the private sector, spur investment, and continue creating economic prosperity.
In Texas, we’ve seen the benefits of growing wind energy first-hand. The Texas governor’s “Texas Renewable Energy Industry Report” reports that more than 25,000 Texans work in wind-power related field. Capital investment made by wind power in Texas exceeds $23 billion. Wind energy has brought revenue to Texas communities, benefiting county and local services, schools, and public health and safety facilities. These are just a few of the reasons why many local Chambers of Commerce across the country, including Texas, strongly support wind power.
Rural Texas landowners and farmers are calling wind power their new drought-resistant cash crop. By growing wind farms on their land, Texas landowners are seeing over $38 million a year in land-lease payments. That’s a big boost to their bottom lines. By example, in Nolan County, there are 1371 utility grade wind turbines. The county taxable evaluation went from $500 million in 1999 to $2.8 B in 2008. They currently have over 200 employees live and working in Nolan County and working across the US. Texas State Technical College also has a wind technician training program in Sweetwater.
With extreme drought taking hold to many of parts of Texas, wind energy benefits rural landowners by conserving 7.8 billion gallons of water a year in Texas. And while other forms of energy can take a tough toll on land, the vast majority of the land used to host wind turbines can continue to be used for its original purposes—such as ranching, farming, wildlife habitat, and recreation.
A similar story is being told in all 50 states as there are wind farms, factories, or both in every state. Wind power has attracted over $75 billion in private investment to our economy over the past five years, supporting a supply chain of over 550 manufacturing facilities across 43 states.
According to the Department of Energy, wind power could grow to supply 20 percent of America’s electricity needs by 2030, resulting in more than $600 million a year to rural landowners across the U.S. and creating 400,000 jobs by 2050.
Thanks to the PTC, wind energy technology innovation continues to advance rapidly, increasing efficiency and productivity. These advances mean lower power prices for consumers. Taller towers, advanced blade technologies, improved gearboxes, and over 30 years of experience in siting wind turbines to maximize their power output have helped drive down costs. According to the Department of Energy, wind’s costs have dropped 43 percent in just four years and, by diversifying state energy portfolio with wind power, consumers in the states that use the most wind energy are seeing their electricity prices decrease.
To grow wind power to 20% of the U.S.’s electricity mix by 2020 and in order to maximize the economic and environmental benefits of wind, it’s important to invest in wind power at all scales. But meeting this goal will prove difficult if there’s no long-term policy stability.
Wind power isn’t red or blue, it’s red, white and blue. With many members of Congress returning to their local districts during August recess, it’s critical that the Republicans, Independents, and Democrats who make up the majority of Americans who support wind power use the power of their voices to tell Congress to extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit immediately.
Becker is executive director of the Sweetwater Economic Development.