Report champions tax credits for wind energy
More than 1,000 people already have jobs working on wind energy in South Carolina, and there’s not an offshore turbine spinning yet.
Twenty times that many could have jobs by 2030, and 30 percent of the electric power used in the state could come from giant wind turbines offshore, according to state and federal reports.
That’s the payback environmentalists and a state legislator say justifies extending federal tax credits for the fledging industry.
And that’s the argument behind “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy,” a status report released Thursday by the National Wildlife Federation. Wind power, like other “green” energy initiatives, has drawn criticism for relying on taxpayer subsidies.
The report argues that the country is on the verge of reaping benefits from that investment. It focuses on advances made since the group’s 2010 report, said federation senior manager Catherine Bowes.
With the credits expiring at the end of the year and no real legislative progress in Congress, “We wanted to shine a light on how much progress has been made and the critical need to move these programs forward,” she said. “There’s a real sense of urgency.”
Among subsidies in South Carolina, a $98 million Clemson University Wind Turbine Drivetrain Testing Facility is being built in North Charleston using more than $45 million in public money.
The facility would be the largest in the world, capable of testing giant turbines needed to harvest offshore winds high above the water’s surface.
The facility and port location already have drawn one manufacturer to operate nearby, said S.C. Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, who chairs a wind-energy feasibility committee. “We’ve got to be very, very careful about tax credits in these things. If you don’t make money on it, you don’t need to do it,” he said.
Unlike some of the other energy initiatives, “on wind I see an argument to be made (for tax credits) because of the economic benefits,” he said.
Offshore winds in the Southeast have been considered marginal to operate turbines. The winds are more than sufficient if the giant turbines can be built at least five miles out to sea and 40 feet high, Campbell said. “I think we’re on the cusp of actually having the technology to go offshore,” he said.
The federation report argues that the Atlantic coast has the potential to produce enough electricity to power 14 million homes while providing $200 billion in construction, manufacturing and operation jobs. “This is new technology. People are a little afraid of it. The start-up costs are expensive,” said Steve Moore, climate and energy director for the federation’s South Carolina office.
There’s an inertia about moving from the standard way of doing business, he said. “But I think that’s starting to change.”