On the foggy afternoon of Wednesday April 8, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) visited EDF Renewable Energy’s Fenton wind project in southwest Minnesota to learn more about the technology that powers 770,000 homes in her state.
As reported by the Worthington Daily Globe, Senator Klobuchar called for a multi-year extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) for renewable energy. She noted that a bill extending the credit for five years, like the period each farm bill covers, would give the industry much needed certainty.
During the visit, Marsha Hines, asset manager for the Fenton project and other EDF Renewable Energy projects, discussed the importance of market certainty for the many parts of the wind energy supply chain. Senator Klobuchar agreed, saying “Manufacturers are looking for places to put their [wind energy] plants, and if they know that tax credit is going to be there, that helps our economy more than just providing energy. It provides stability and consistency for investors and people who are looking to moving and living in the area.”
Senator Klobuchar was welcomed by EDF Renewable Energy and EDF Renewable Services employees, including the 14 technicians that service the 137 turbines stretching over seven square miles of farm fields surrounding Chandler, Minnesota. Chris Thomas, Minnesota area operations manager for EDF Renewable Energy, provided a tour of the wind park’s operations and maintenance facility as well as a turbine.
“To provide more opportunities for our current technicians to move up in the industry and more opportunities for new technicians graduating from technical colleges, we simply need to build more wind farms,” said Chris Thomas.
“It’s great to be able to see how these things operate and to actually understand how they work,” Klobuchar said during the visit. “This is such an important part of our economy in Minnesota. It energizes our businesses and homes, and we’d like to see more of it.”
Thankfully, Senator Klobuchar has wind energy allies on both sides of the aisle at both the federal and state levels. Just an hour south of the Fenton wind project and across the state border, Chuck Grassley (R, IA) is one the industry’s staunchest supporters. He led a bipartisan letter last year calling for an extension of the PTC.
While the PTC was extended for the last two weeks of 2014, it expired January 1st and the call for extension is renewed once again. While the PTC consistently faces the need for renewal, it’s worth remembering that non-renewable energy sources continue to benefit from permanent subsidies dating back a century. According to the Department of Energy’s recent “Wind Vision” report, wind power can grow to become America’s largest source of electricity by 2050. You can write your elected representatives today through AWEA’s Power of Wind initiative and remind them that we need consistent policies like the PTC in place to realize this potential.
Minnesota is already leading the way toward realizing the “Wind Vision” goals with 15.9 percent of the state’s energy coming from wind. The state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which was passed into law with bipartisan support in 2007, is critical to ensuring competition for renewable energy development within the state’s regulated energy market. The law has been so successful that Xcel and the state’s other utilities are ahead of schedule in meeting their targets. Thankfully, Minnesota State Representative Joe Schomacker (R, 22A), who represents the district that includes the Fenton wind project, has joined with Senator Kevin Dahle (D, 20), of Northfield, in a bipartisan effort to expand the state’s RES to 40 percent by 2030. With session ending in a month, this is a vital time for wind industry advocates to contact Minnesota legislators and let them know what extending the RES could mean for your business. Contact AWEA regional partner Wind on the Wires to learn how you can get involved.