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Industrial Wind and the Production Tax Credit

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Industrial Wind and the Production Tax Credit

The glimmer has been lost from industrial wind. The "Green" promises of an alternative energy hits a brick wall when applied to this industry. By an objective analysis standard, wind projects make no economic sense. Just look at some of the provisions that subsidized this botched industry.

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) allows taxpayers eligible for the federal renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) to take the federal business energy investment tax credit (ITC) or to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the PTC for new installations. The grant is only available to systems where construction began prior to December 31, 2011. The new law also allows taxpayers eligible for the business ITC to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the business ITC for new installations".

The entire economic basis for developing wind factories rests upon government money. The recent defeat of extending the Production Tax Credit comes at a time when the appeal of backing inefficient and undependable electric generation is sinking like a rock. The PTC and Section 1603 extension was tacked onto the Stabenow amendment, which failed to pass in the Senate. "Stabenow’s amendment would have continued the production credit through 2013, as well as a Treasury Department renewable-power grant program known as 1603."

Even under these generous subsidies, projects continue to fail. The latest causality is the UTC subsidiary Clipper Windpower. Bloomberg reports, that United Technologies is classifying Clipper as a discontinued operation. Forbes announces on their website, United Technologies Unloads Clipper Windpower,

"UTC in January 2010 invested an initial $207m to take a 49.5% stake in Clipper following a liquidity crisis at the wind turbine manufacturer. It gained full control in December 2010 for an additional $223m . . . Clipper was then losing money and share in its core US market. Installations of its flagship 2.5 MW Liberty wind turbine plunged to 28 in 2010 from 242 the previous year . . . .

The company’s image had also taken a hard hit after cracking problems surfaced in 2007 that required a $330m remediation program to replace the blades on all its turbines. Many of its third-party customers left for other vendors."

The prospect of selling this business is remote. The company was only an assembler of components based upon their designs. Gearbox failures continue to plague these turbines. Under a capitalistic system, businesses that sell an unreliable produce go bankrupt. Clipper Windpower will soon be remembered as an example of a company providing defective and inept technology. Wasting public funds on such a venture exemplifies the shortcomings of "Green" zealots.

Clipper turbines were used on several First Wind projects. The subsidy carousal extends to the developer, as seen in the essay; First Wind swindle has just committed another heist. Cited in the 9/1/09 Democratic and Chronicle business section, the following article appeared – Southern Tier wind farm gets $74.6 million in grants. This amount is in addition to the PTC. As with any federal gift, connections and strings attached usually precede the process.

"First Wind has ties to the administration of President Barack Obama. A New York City hedge fund, D.E. Shaw & Co., is a major investor in First Wind, according to statements issued in recent years by First Wind. Lawrence H. Summers, who now heads Obama’s National Economic Council, was a compensated managing director at D.E. Shaw before leaving late last year."

Since Clipper Windpower is in no position to honor service warranty agreements with First Wind, just how long will their wind farms continue to operate? Actually, First Wind is on very shaky ground and has serious financial troubles. The Sun Journal reports,

"First Wind, Emera Inc. (the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service) and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. propose to jointly build and operate wind-energy projects in Maine and elsewhere in the Northeast. After a failed bid to go public in 2010, which left First Wind cash-hungry, the deal is a way for the Boston-based company to continue building wind towers across Maine and the region, as well as a way for Emera and Algonquin to reach new energy consumers in the U.S."

After this arrangement collapsed, First Wind sought to sell an equity interest to Algonquin. The publication Recharge states,

"Algonquin Power and Utilities has dropped a bid to purchase a 12% stake for $83m in First Wind Holdings’ 370MW wind portfolio in the eastern US, citing delays in winning approval from regulators in Maine.

First Wind, whose main investors are hedge fund operator DE Shaw and private equity company Madison Dearborn Partners, cancelled an IPO in October 2010 after facing investor concerns over its debt load and future profitability."

Soon First Wind will succumb to the same fate of Clipper Windpower, a discontinued operation.

The defeat of the Production Tax Credit may not be an assured and indefinite reality, but this is an election year. Surely, the corporate wind lobbyists will want to insert this boondoggle back into the federal budget. However, the ground swell against industrial wind factories is growing.

The little secret that wind projects often are paid not to produce electricity. The power grid is incompatible with many wind projects. Government-Subsidized Wind Farms Told NOT to Produce Energy reports,

"Wind farms in the Pacific Northwest – built with government subsidies and maintained with tax credits for every megawatt produced – are now getting paid to shut down as the federal agency charged with managing the region‘s electricity grid says there’s an oversupply of renewable power at certain times of the year."

This is an absurd corporate welfare system. It is long overdue to let the free market compete. Industrial Wind is really a corporate/state pet program that operates just as unwisely as all government bureaucracies do. The money that is wasted through the Production Tax Credit and other subsidy grants is a national disgrace. Do your part and express your opposition to your elected officials.

James Hall – March 21, 2012

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