Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop alternatives to requiring lighting of wind turbine towers, and said the Congress should extend the renewable energy production tax credit for 10 years. Walden spoke at the dedication of the Klondike Power Project expansion in the Sherman County, Oregon town of Wasco.
Congress passed a one-year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy development, along with other renewable energy development tax credits, as part of the economic rescue package that passed the U.S. House and was signed into law on Friday, October 3. Walden voted for the measure, which also extended the county timber payments and Payments in Lieu of Taxes program for four years.
"These credits have a dramatic impact on renewable energy development and jobs," Walden said during the dedication of the Klondike III wind farm. "All too often these tax incentives are saved from expiration at the last minute, or allowed to lapse. It's time for Congress to get serious about renewable energy development and extend these credits for 10 years so that businesses can make long-term investment decisions, and the country can get on track for a long-term renewable energy plan that will help wean us from foreign oil."
He said each time the production tax credits expired in 1999, 2001, and 2003, installation of wind capacity nationwide dropped dramatically the next year: 93 percent in 2000, 73 percent in 2002, and 77 percent in 2004. Following three years of uninterrupted federal PTC support, the wind industry installed a record 5,249 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity in 2007, providing 35 percent of the nation's new electrical capacity and enough electricity to serve the equivalent of 1.5 million American households.
Walden said jobs in rural communities, like those in Sherman County, are adversely impacted when the PTC is allowed to lapse:
ü Nationwide, studies have shown that failure to extend the PTC places at risk 76,000 wind industry jobs and $11.5 billion in economic investments by the end of 2009.
ü In Oregon, estimates are that without the PTC for wind, 7,297 construction and installation jobs relating to wind installations would be lost.
ü Oregon ranks fourth nationwide among states to realize the most job opportunities lost without the PTC extended: only Texas, Colorado and Illinois rank higher in potential job losses.
In addition to advocating a longer-term renewable energy policy, Walden also announced an effort to get the Federal Aviation Administration to develop an alternative warning system for aircraft that would negate the need for hundreds of red, flashing lights in the night skies of eastern Oregon.
"I think we've all come to realize that with the proliferation of wind energy, many of our friends and neighbors are growing more and more sensitive to where these towers are sprouting up and the blinking red lights that adorn them," said Walden, who is also a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. "Today, I sent a letter to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration asking him to have the FAA develop alternative methods of warning aircraft about these towers. With all of the modern GPS mapping and tracking and warning systems technology has brought us, it's time to find a safe, workable alternative to hundreds of red flashing lights on every ridge line in eastern Oregon."
"Otherwise, I'm concerned that public opposition will grow and threaten our opportunity to create clean, renewable wind energy, develop good paying jobs in rural communities and enhance local government's financial stability," Walden said.
Walden is vice chair of the bipartisan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. He also serves on the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Tuesday, the Second District Representative will participate in a renewable energy roundtable discussion in Prineville that will focus on converting woody biomass into energy. Friday, he will deliver the keynote address to the Oregon Public Utility Districts' convention in The Dalles.
Congressman Greg Walden represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and a member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.