Local wind company concerned about tax credit expiring - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local wind company concerned about tax credit expiring

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HAWKEYE (KWWL) -

One of the hot topics of this year's presidential election -- wind energy, and whether production tax credits for the industry should be extended.

Mitt Romney thinks wind tax credits should be allowed to expire, instead favoring other forms of energy like nuclear and coal power.  President Obama is a big supporter of renewable energy tax breaks.

Wind energy producers in Iowa say the credits are a life line to the growing industry.

The final piece of a wind turbine pole was lowered into place in Hawkeye Wednesday.  When complete, the Fayette County wind farm will be home to 15 towering wind machines.

"It's small enough that actually our little group can build it and own it and operate it, and we will sell the power to CIPCO, which is Central Iowa Power Cooperative," said Kirk Kraft with RPM Access Clean Energy Company.

One of the pieces for one of the project's towers contains a very special signature:  President Barack Obama's, which he signed during a recent visit to Iowa.

"That's very gratifying to know he supports the wind industry as hard as he does," said Kraft.

Kraft says he worries about the future of the industry if the president's push to extend wind production tax credits isn't successful.  Some companies, including Clipper Wind in Cedar Rapids, are already laying off workers because of uncertainty about the future of those tax breaks.

"I foresee more people being laid off.  Everybody's nervous about their jobs.  We happen to buy these turbines out of a brand new factory in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and I don't think their order book for 2013 is very full yet.  So there's a lot of uncertainly, lot of nervousness in the industry," said Kraft.

Some argue the tax credits are an unfair advantage for the wind industry.  Those in the burgeoning business insist that's not the case.

"I used to be a mayor in a small town, and I know every business that came to town that wanted to build a factory or open a business always came to city hall looking for whatever incentives were out there.  Incentives are in place and put in place by our legislators for the very purpose of encouraging growth and development," Kraft said.

Kraft believes the wind industry can survive if the tax credits expire later this year, but it will be a scaled back version -- limiting how much the industry can propel itself in the future.

Although President Obama and Mitt Romney are divided on the wind tax credit's future, the credits have bi-partisan support in Iowa.  Congressman Steve King, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Governor Terry Branstad are among Republicans who support the tax breaks.

While wind is a very small part of all energy produced, the industry supports some 75,000 jobs.

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