The winds of change
Alternative energy spurring jobs, growth
ELWOOD – White Construction, based in Clinton, is racing against time to complete the Wildcat Wind Farm near Elwood. The goal is to have all 125 turbines completed and producing energy before winter weather sets in and before the federal Wind Production Tax Credit expires on Dec. 31.
E.ON Climate and Renewables owns the wind farm and is investing $400 million in the project. Phase I will produce 200 megawatts of energy and includes turbines spread across 8,500 acres in Madison, Tipton and Grant counties.
Andy Melka, development manager for E.ON, said 41 turbines are completed and 10 are operational. He said they are on schedule to have all the turbines running by the end of the year.
The project has brought 170 construction jobs to an area in need of employment. It will mean 10 to 12 permanent operation and maintenance jobs.
There is the potential for three more phases to Wildcat, but that could depend on extension of the tax credit. The credit offers producers 2.1 cents in tax credits for every kilowatt hour of energy.
Opponents say government should not be picking winners and losers among energy companies. They also argue wind energy should be able to prosper without tax credits if it is truly a viable alternative energy source.
Supporters are quick to point out that fossil fuel-based energy companies have long received federal help for energy development. The tax credit levels the playing field.
Interestingly, support or opposition doesn’t break down neatly by political party. Democrats traditionally are stronger supporters of renewable energy initiatives. But most wind farms are located in rural and heavily Republican areas.
In this economy, it seems unwise to endanger an industry that’s bringing so many jobs to struggling communities.