• Windustry Honored as Wedgeshare Grant Recipient

    MINNEAPOLIS (March 3, 2009) — Windustry was honored as a 2008 Wedgeshare Grant Recipient from the Wedge Co-op, a Minneapolis natural and organic food cooperative with almost 14,000 member-owners. Grants went to a range of organizations that combat hunger, promote food safety, and foster renewable energy and sustainable communities.

    Since 1997, The Wedge’s WedgeShare charitable giving program has awarded grants to community non-profits whose work aligns with the cooperative principle that co-ops “work for the sustainable development of their communities.” This year, thirteen organizations that applied for WedgeShare grants made the final ballot. Wedge Co-op members voted to distribute the grants during the co-op’s annual election in October 2008.

    Windustry (a non-profit working to increase wind energy opportunities for farmers and rural communities) is the primary provider of high-quality energy information and assistance to farmers and rural communities in the Midwest. Requests for Windustry’s assistance continue to grow as interest in renewable energy has exploded. There is great potential for wind energy to provide economic and social benefits to Minnesotan and Midwestern farmers and rural communities, but these benefits will be maximized only if farmers and rural communities have high-quality, up-to-date, easily accessible information to help them make informed choices.

    Other WedgeShare recipients included the Emergency Foodshelf Network, Cornucopia Institute, Youth Farm & Market Project, Farmer’s Action Legal Group, Universal Healthcare Action Network of Minnesota, Community Design Center of Minnesota, Southside Family Charter School, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, Local Fair Trade Network, Gardening Matters, Women’s Environmental Institute at Amador Hill and Urban Arts Academy.

  • Rewards of Ownership

    “Community-based renewable energy projects can produce big benefits,” according to Julie Curti and Justin Goetz in their article “Rewards of Ownership” in a recent issue of Rural Cooperatives Magazine, published by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    They review various business models and sample cases for community-based renewable energy from around the world, finding that “Community ownership empowers local decision-making and maximizes the local economic benefits of renewable energy projects, as more money stays in the community than when outside owners are involved.”

    They cite four phases that comprise a successful community development strategic planning process:

    • Community assessment
    • Strategic planning
    • Implementation and benchmarking
    • Evaluation

    The article is available in an online version of the November/December 2008 issue of November/December 2008 at the USDA web site:

    Rural Cooperatives Magazine: Rewards of Ownership

  • Green Power Express

    ITC Holdings Corp. has worked to develop the Green Power Express, a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy.

    This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

    The Green Power Express could be a step to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid by building a high-voltage backbone to meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid. Once built the Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost of approximately $10 to 12 billion.

    "The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express is in many ways the true definition of a 'smart grid'."

    Due to the size and scope of this project along with the various state and federal approvals that will be required, ITC is aggressively targeting to have the Green Power Express in service by 2020.

    Read more about the Green Power Express.

  • How Will Stimulus Bill Help Community Wind?

    American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

    Obama signs stimulus bill
    President Obama signs American
    Recovery and Reinvestment Act

    Now that Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, how will this help to stimulate Community Wind projects? According to Denise Bode, American Wind Energy Association CEO, "the stimulus bill contains a number of provisions aimed at helping our industry continue the very strong growth in new installations and new jobs we have seen over the past few years." Some of the provisions include:

    • 3-year extension of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC)
    • Option for a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) instead of the PTC
    • Option to convert the ITC into a grant for projects placed in service before 2013
    • Additional loan guarantees, bonds, and tax incentives

    President Obama's goal with the stimulus package is to create a wide variety of initiatives to jumpstart the American economy. This opens up new sources of funding for renewable energy at a time when the Wind Energy industry is set for even more growth despite  being stalled by the economic downturn. These programs will allow Community Wind projects to take advantage of more funding opportunities.

    “Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector, jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges, constructing wind turbines...”

    President Barack Obama
    Presidential Address to Congress
    February 24, 2009

    Wind facilities that qualify for the PTC can now make an irrevocable decision to take a 30% ITC in lieu of the PTC. In order to do so the project must be placed into service by December 31, 2012, and the PTC will no longer be available for the project. This has the potential to attract more investors who may not have enough passive activity income to realize the PTC. Which credit a taxpayer uses will depend upon an analysis of the project revenue and cost projections as well as analysis of the investor tax appetite. 

    Further, if the project qualifies for the PTC or the ITC and is placed into service between 2009-2010 (or it begins construction at that time and is placed into service before 2013) the project can choose to apply to the Treasury Department for a cash grant that is equal to 30% of the qualified costs of the project. This cash grant is in lieu of both the PTC and ITC. This means the value of the ITC can be realized, even if the taxpayer cannot take advantage of the credit. The rules and application guidelines for this program have not been finalized yet.  

    There are other provisions that address renewable energy financing on other levels. The Act removes the $4,000 cap on the small wind credit so taxpayers can now take the full 30% credit for a qualified small wind system.

    The Act also provides for an additional $1.6 billion for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) that are used to finance renewable energy. There have been no announcements yet that applications are being accepted for these new allocations, and no guidance has been given on how the program will operate. Previously, these bonds have been given at 0% interest rate, and the bondholder receives a tax credit in lieu of bond interest. 

    The Department of Energy received an extension of their authority to provide loan guarantees for qualified technologies under Title XVII of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 and an additional $6 billion for this program. Eligible technologies include electricity-generating renewable energy projects.   

    Read more on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Wind Energy Provisions at the Fredrikson & Byron P.A. web site and read how The Geniuses at DSIRE Translate the Energy Parts of the Stimulus Package via the Interstate Renewable Energy Council web site.

    Along with this important step forward to make wind power and other renewables a catalyst for America’s economic recovery, the American Wind Energy Association has launched an effort to enact a national renewable electricity standard (RES) and to make progress toward construction of the Green Power Superhighway, a new transmission system needed to fully develop America’s immense wind resources. Read more about the AWEA New Wind Agenda.

  • Wind Energy Jobs Grew 70% in 2008

    The United States wind industry created 35,000 new jobs in 2008, according to a news report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). 85,000 workers are now employed in the wind industry including jobs in manufacturing, development, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance.

    Wind turbine and turbine component manufacturers added or expanded 55 facilities creating 13,000 new direct jobs last year.

    “The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today,” according to AWEA. Iowa reached an installed wind energy capacity of 2,790 MW surpassing California to take the number two spot in the U.S.:

    • Texas - 7,116 MW
    • Iowa - 2,790 MW
    • California - 2,517 MW
    • Minnesota - 1,752 MW
    • Washington - 1,375 MW

    “Wind jobs outstrip coal mining” read a recent Fortune Magazine headline for an article contrasting the growing wind industry to the U.S. coal mining industry, which employs about 81,000 workers. Writer Todd Woody suggested that the AWEA report provides “a talking point in the green jobs debate.”

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a 20% Wind Scenario report last year showing that wind power could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. Accoding to the DOE report, in the decade preceding 2030 the U.S. wind industry could support:

    • 500,000 jobs with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.
    • more than 100,000 jobs in associated industries.
    • more than 200,000 jobs through economic expansion based on local spending.

    “Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years.” But, Bode also notes that the economic downturn has forced some layoffs in wind turbine manufacturing, so economic stimulus and smart policy incentives are needed for the growth to continue.

  • Xcel Energy Solicits C-BED Project Proposals

    As a part of Xcel Energy’s Community-Based Energy Development (C-BED) program, Xcel Energy is soliciting proposals for Community Based Wind Projects.

    Xcel Energy will be accepting proposals for new Minnesota wind generation resources to be in commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2010. Xcel Energy will seek approvals for any resulting Renewable Energy Purchase Agreements from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The submission deadline is February 20, 2009.

    For more information see the Xcel Energy RFP.

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