An estimated 37,000 jobs could be affected due to Congress denying an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) that was first enacted in 1992. Since 1999, the PTC has received short-term extensions seven times, and has lapsed three times. This boom-and-bust cycle of uncertainty has impacted long term planning of wind projects over the past ten years.
Vestas one of the world’s largest producers of wind turbines, said it may need to lay off 1,600 people in the coming months without more policy certainty. The PTC, a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, is given to an owner of a wind-energy project once a wind turbine begins to produce electricity. According to the American Wind Energy Association the U.S. wind energy industry has invested $60 billion since 2005.
It’s uncertain as to the potential impact of several wind farm projects just starting in Michigan’s Thumb. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the failure to pass the PTC may halt more than 13,892 megawatts of planned wind projects in Illinois. The current PTC tax credits expire at the end of 2012.
This is a look back at the events that took place leading to the forced removal of two long standing commissioners from the Lake Township Michigan planning board in 2009. Both individuals were noted as taking a hard line with the way wind energy was being zoned and allowed into the township.
The article from the Huron Daily Tribune and the subsequent comments by local readers serve as a record of the political atmosphere during the initial debate over the direction of wind energy in the Upper Thumb. Planning Commission Chairman Louis J. Colletta and Planning Commission Member Tim Lalley where removed from their positions by the Lake Township board.
There remains a high level of contention and debate due to Wind Energy in Lake Township to this day.
ThumbWind.com has completed a survey of current, planned and halted wind projects in the state of Michigan. Information was compiled from published reports and Michigan Public Services Commission, (MPSC). The state of Michigan now has a total of 208 turbines with a capacity of 340 megawatts. Huron County in Michigan’s thumb remains the top provider of wind power with 122 megawatts active in 2011.
Huge Growth in Wind Power
Projects registered with the MPSC shows that an additional 466 wind turbines are planned in 2012 – 2017. Once completed the total capacity will be approximately 1100 megawatts generated by 674 turbines. The entire thumb region, comprised of Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties will be the primary location with of 10 of the 18 industrial wind farms active in Michigan.
Despite Growth Local Hurdles’ Remain
At least three major projects were halted due to local zoning and negative citizen reaction. The Gail Wind Power project being developed by Duke Energy in Benzie County and Manistee County was halted. The project called for over 100 turbines being placed near Arcadia near Lake Michigan. In a press release by Duke Power the company said it will turn its attention to projects in Kansas, Texas and Pennsylvania.
On line newspaper mlive.com is reporting that preparations and study is actively underway to create a 100 megawatt wind farm at Muskegon County’s wastewater treatment site. The $300 million project is being developed by Gamesa, a wind-turbine manufacturer and wind-farm developer. This would be the fifth wind development project that Gamesa has been involved with in the United States.
Preparations include measuring wind speed and duration at the 11,000 acre site. In addition the County is plotting current underground pipes and other utility’s to make way for transmission lines to the estimated 52 turbine project.
Headquartered in Spain, Gamesa has been working for 15 years’ in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of wind turbines, with more than 23,000 megawatts installed in 30 countries. Gamesa has 31 production facilities in Europe, the US, China, India and Brazil and 8,000 employees worldwide.