The Garden City Telegram
1/16/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Wind win

Tax incentives have a place in fueling local economies.

Good news came from the nation's capital recently in extension of a tax credit to power wind energy.

Even as Kansas saw the most wind farm construction of any state last year, uncertainty over extension of the federal tax credit led some in the industry to scale back operations. Jobs were lost, and some ventures involved in the quest for a more diverse energy portfolio, including wind, stalled.

Now, the hope is Congress' decision to approve a one-year extension of the federal Wind Production Tax Credit helps power new projects, especially in a windy state like Kansas.

Last year, an American Wind Energy Association report showed the Sunflower State leading the nation in the number of wind turbines under construction. Kansas also ranked 14th in installed wind power generation, with enough momentum to climb the list.

Conditions in Kansas were favorable enough for a pair of utilities to move forward with a $300 million wind-energy investment in southwest Kansas.

The Buffalo Dunes Wind Project — a deal between Lenexa-based TradeWind Energy and Alabama Power Co. — is to cover 42,000 acres in Grant, Haskell and Finney counties, and is more proof of Kansas' great wind-power potential.

A local business development — the Transportation Partners & Logistics, a firm that off-loads and distributes wind generating components — was another example of the benefit of a wind-energy surge.

But various wind-energy-related developments were stuck in limbo as congressmen debated the need for the tax credit.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, was among "tea-party" Republicans who opposed its extension, in spite of the potential to help generate jobs in his district.

Huelskamp said the government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers. Yet oil and gas have long received tax breaks.

Kansas and the nation need a diversified energy strategy that incorporates wind and other renewable sources as a step toward energy independence. Local communities need the jobs and business new wind projects bring.

Consider the wind-industry tax credit an integral part of those pursuits, one all the more important in a state naturally suited to be a leader in wind production.