One of the world’s largest wind farms officially came online this week in Eastern Oregon, with 300 giant turbines spread over dozens of miles.
But the announcement comes at a time of uncertainty for the industry: A federal wind energy tax credit is set to expire at end of the year.
As far as wind projects go, the Shepherds Flat farm is an ambitious undertaking, according to John Audley, deputy director of the non-profit Renewable Northwest Project.
“It is probably two and a half to three times to size of good-sized wind farms,” Audley says, “so this is a big wind farm.”
The project’s price tag was also big — just under $2 billion; about half that coming from taxpayer subsidies.
Now some members of the Republican-controlled House want to end government support of green energy. This week, forty-seven congressmen penned a letter to Speaker John Boehner urging him let the federal wind production tax credit expire at the end of this year.
But that could have repercussions for the industry, says Audley. “It’s important to note that the average wind turbine now is made from parts about 60 percent of which are manufactured in the United States and some U.S.-based companies boast as much as 80 percent.”
In other words, eliminating that credit could also wind up eliminating jobs. At least that’s the argument being put out the American Wind Energy Association. It points to a study that shows letting the tax credits lapse could cost the U.S. more than 37,000 jobs.