Federal Production Tax Credit

The Wind Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), is a per kilowatt-hour tax credit for wind-generated electricity. Available during the first 10 years of operation, it provides 1.5 cents per kWh credit adjusted annually for inflation. The adjusted credit amount for 2005 is 1.9 cents per kWh. Enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the credit has gone through several cycles of expiration and renewal. The inconsistent nature of this tax credit has been a significant challenge for the wind industry, creating uncertainty for long term planning and preventing steady market development. In July 2005, the PTC was "seamlessly" renewed for the first time when an extension through December 31, 2007 was included in the federal Energy Bill. The PTC was extended again in December 2006, and will now expire December 31, 2008.

Read more about the PTC on the American Wind Energy Association web site.

The tax credit also is primarily useful for corporations and is difficult (but, not impossible) for other entities (farmers and individuals, schools, municipal utilities, etc.) to use effectively.

Many community wind projects find ways to use the production tax credit, but it can be a challenge. The federal Renewable Energy Production Incentive supported many municipal and school projects, but is not available for new projects. There have been a number of proposals to make the PTC more accessible for community projects and other alternatives.

Why is the PTC difficult for farmers and other average individuals to use?

Adapted from the Government Accountability Office's September 2004 report, Wind Power's Contribution to Electric Power Generation and Impact on Farms and Rural Communities:

According to Department of Treasury officials, for a farmer who does not materially participate in a wind power project to make use of the production tax credit, the farmer must have tax liability attributable to passive income (e.g., rental income or income from businesses in which the farmer participates only as an investor) against which to claim the production tax credit.* Passive income does not include income from the farmer's active farming business, wage income, or interest and dividend income. Unless a farmer materially participates in the production of wind power, the production tax credit cannot offset tax liability attributable to income from these sources. Since many farmers do not have passive income and do not materially participate in wind power production, this passive versus nonpassive income distinction limits the number of farmers that are able to take advantage of the renewable energy production tax credit.

*Internal Revenue Service Publication 925 defines criteria for material participation in a trade or business activity. For example, an individual materially participates in a trade or business activity if the individual participates more than 500 hours during the tax year.