• Loans for Community-Based Wind Projects in Northeastern Minnesota

    2009: Duluth, MN - The Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) and the Northland Foundation have partnered to provide a revolving loan fund that will provide early-stage project development and feasibility analysis for community-based wind energy projects. The revolving loan fund will be available in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis counties.

    The revolving loan fund is part of the Rural Energy Development Initiative (REDI), a state-wide program addressing community-based wind energy development. REDI loan financing is limited to early stage project development and feasibility analysis for wind energy electric generation projects that intend to sell the electricity to an electric utility. Maximum loan size is $25,000 for any one project and/or borrower. ARDC functions as the regional REDI organizer for northeast Minnesota. The Northland Foundation is the acting loan partner for the revolving loan fund. 

    For more information regarding the revolving loan fund and/or the application for the loan fund, please see the website or contact Bonnie Hundrieser (ARDC) at 218-529-7527 or bhundrieser@ardc.org

  • DOE Announces $22 Million for Community Renewable Energy Projects

    Washington DC, July 15, 2009 - U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced plans to provide up to $22 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the planning and installation of utility-scale community renewable energy projects in up to four communities nationwide. This funding opportunity directly supports the Obama Administration's goals of developing clean, renewable energy supplies, and creating new jobs and economic opportunities.

    Secretary of Energy Chu
    Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

    "American families and businesses are struggling in a recession and an increasingly competitive global economy. The Recovery Act was designed to rescue the economy from the immediate dangers it faces while rebuilding its fundamentals, with an eye toward new industry and opportunity," Secretary Chu said. "To help meet these challenges, the Recovery Act invests significant dollars to put people to work to spur a revolution in clean energy technologies."

    The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will provide technical assistance to selected recipients, including concepts, best practices, planning, financial approaches, policy guidance, and recognition to help communities rapidly plan and deploy utility-scale renewable energy systems that provide clean, reliable and affordable energy supplies for their communities, while creating jobs and new economic development opportunities. The projects will demonstrate how multiple renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, biomass and geothermal systems, can be deployed at scale to supply clean energy to communities.

    DOE anticipates each project will leverage significant investment, including public and private sector investment in renewable energy systems.  The projects funded under this FOA are expected to create jobs and avoid 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

    Up to $22 million in DOE funding is available for these awards in fiscal year 2010.  DOE anticipates making up to 4 awards totaling up to $21.45 million, and expects matching funds from public and private investment of $22 million or more.

    Successful applicants will be awarded financial assistance to support the implementation of an integrated renewable energy deployment plan for a community, and the construction of renewable energy systems.

    Completed applications are due September 3, 2009. DOE will select awardees by the end of November 2009.

    To access the application form and the official funding opportunity announcement:

    1. Go to the FedConnect web site.
    2. Click the Search Public Opportunities link.
    3. Enter "DE-FOA-0000122" as the Search Criteria Title.
    4. Click Search.
    5. Click on the Title link of DE-FOA-0000122
  • Wind Energy Promotion Act Introduced in Congress

    Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Tim Walz and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson have introduced the Wind Energy Promotion Act, which will make it easier for individuals and small groups to take advantage of tax incentives that encourage wind energy production. Walz, a freshman member of the Agriculture Committee, said he heard about the need for the legislation while he was holding a series of Farm Bill forums throughout southern Minnesota in February and April.

    Rep. Walz visits the Bingham Lake Wind Farm to discuss energy policy.
    Rep. Walz (4th from left) visits the Bingham Lake
    Wind Farm to discuss energy policy.

    "Raising capital for wind energy projects is difficult, because many residents of rural America do not qualify for the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is one of the major incentives to promote wind energy production," said Walz. "This legislation will expand renewable energy production by leveling the playing field for individuals in rural America who are looking to enter the industry. Everyone wins if we pass this legislation."

    "We think it is unfortunate that our tax code makes it easy for corporations to receive the Production Tax Credit, but not for individuals in rural America who wish to do the same," said Chairman Peterson. "I'm pleased to join Congressman Walz in introducing this legislation to make our tax code fairer and to bring the benefits of renewable energy investments to more of our rural citizens."

    Currently, the PTC provides a 1.9 cent-per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for individuals who invest in wind energy generation. However, only passive income—such as income from investments—may be offset by the PTC; someone who merely invests in a wind farm cannot receive the PTC unless they have other sources of passive income to offset.

    The practical effect of this passive loss restriction is that currently, PTCs are only useful to corporations and to individuals with large amounts of taxable investment income. As a result, most wind energy investments today are made by foreign multi-national companies and not by groups of Americans who want to join together to produce renewable energy.

    The Walz-Peterson Wind Energy Promotion Act would make it easier for Americans to invest in wind energy projects by expanding the eligibility of who can receive benefits from the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. This legislation would not limit the ability of the current beneficiaries of the PTCs to continue receiving them.

    The Wind Energy Promotion Act would amend the tax code to allow up to $40,000 of the PTC to be used against ordinary income. This "passive loss exemption" is similar to a $25,000 passive loss exemption that currently exists to encourage investments in oil and gas development and real estate.

    The Wind Energy Promotion Act also addresses the relationship of the PTC to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Because allowing the PTC to apply to ordinary income will force some middle-class taxpayers to file for the AMT, this legislation would change the tax law to eliminate the effect of the AMT on income derived from using the PTC.

    Details of the Wind Energy Promotion Act are available in the document links below.

  • Department of Treasury Releases Cash Grant Guidelines

    Washington, D.C., July 9, 2009 - The United States Treasury Department posted guidance documents for the cash grant program created in section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) including:

    • Program guidance document
    • Terms and conditions
    • Sample application

    It is expected that the Section 1603 program will temporarily fill the gap created by the diminished investor demand for tax credits. In this way, the near term goal of creating and retaining jobs is achieved, as well as the long-term benefit of expanding the use of clean and renewable energy and decreasing our dependency on non-renewable energy sources. Details are available on the Treasury web site:

    www.ustreas.gov/recovery/1603.shtml 

    Interested applicants please note:

    The election to receive the cash grant is an irrevocable election that prohibits an applicant from also receiving the Production Tax Credit (PTC) or the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). For more guidance on electing the ITC or cash grant in lieu of the PTC, see the IRS Notice 2009-52:

    www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-52.pdf

    Identifying whether the PTC, ITC or cash grant will be most financially beneficial to a particular project depends on a number of factors and will require a thorough financial analysis of a project. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued a report analyzing the various benefits of the PTC versus the ITC. That report assumes the value to the developer of the ITC and the cash grant are the same. You can download a copy of the report from the Windustry web site:

    www.windustry.org/news/ptc-itc-or-cash-grant-which-should-a-developer-use

  • American Clean Energy and Security Act

    Bill fights global warming and helps farmers and landowners

    The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), designed to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy, is expected to be brought to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, June 26, prior to Congress's Fourth of July recess. The bill includes a cap-and-trade system requiring companies to buy carbon emissions permits from the federal government, and it sets targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent in 2020, by 42 percent in 2030, and by 83 percent in 2050.

    UPDATE:  On Friday afternoon, June 26, 2009, the U.S.  House of Representatives passed the Clean Energy bill as proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) with a vote of 219 for and 212 against.

    U.S. Representative Collin Peterson U.S. Representative Collin Peterson (middle), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
    U.S. Representative Collin Peterson (middle),
    chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

    The bill has gained support from utilities, energy companies, labor unions, environmentalists, and farm groups. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) led negotiations for a shift in agency oversight of rural carbon offset programs from the EPA to the USDA, which would pay farmers and  landowners for environmentally friendly projects.

    "We have an agreement finally after all these days. We have something that I think works for agriculture." said Representative Peterson. "A lot of the work we did was getting this offset program so it would work. Energy and Commerce and EPA did not get what farmers do.... We really believe that the ag people are the ones that know the most about this and are the ones that should do this."

    Peterson said farmers will be able to mitigate higher energy prices by selling pollution offsets earned by tilling and conservation practices that keep carbon dioxide stored in the soil. Another revision to the bill that Peterson negotiated would give rural electric cooperatives, and other small utilities that have under 4 million megawatts of capacity, a portion of the pollution allowances that businesses would use to meet the bill’s cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

    An analysis by the Center for American Progress and University of Massachusetts projects that the bill, combined with the clean-energy investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, could generate $150 billion in annual public- and private-sector clean-energy investments. The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy report projects that those investments could create 1.7 million new jobs.

    "We all know why this is so important," said President Barack Obama about the Clean Energy bill. "The nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century's global economy. That's what this legislation seeks to achieve—it's a bill that will open the door to a better future for this nation. And that's why I urge members of Congress to come together and pass it." 

    Read more about the Clean Energy bill with these resources from the Center for American Progress:

    The American Clean Energy and Security Act Myths and Facts

    The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy

    Climate Progress blog discussion on the Clean Energy act

    Eight Reasons for Farmers to Support Global Warming Actions

     

  • USDA REAP Energy Grants Available

    Grants to help farmers and ranchers with energy audits, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects

    USDA logo

    Farmers, ranchers, and other rural small businesses have until July 31, 2009 to apply for grants or loan guarantees to assist with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)—(Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill, formerly Section 9006 under the 2002 Farm Bill). REAP will provide funds to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to conduct energy audits and feasibility studies for renewable energy systems, for renewable energy development assistance, and to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.

    Farmers and ranchers who earn 50 percent or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible along with small businesses in rural areas and some rural electric cooperatives. Energy efficiency projects can include retrofitting, replacing, or purchasing lighting and insulation to reduce energy consumption. Energy projects can include wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower or other renewable sources. Projects cannot be used for any residential purpose.

    Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture
    Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture

    “We're trying to create strong rural communities,” stated Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, in a C-SPAN Washington Journal interview on May 28, 2009. “There is tremendous potential both in the biofuels area as well as in the wind, solar, renewable energy area for resurgence in those smaller and mid-sized operations. It's important for us to continue to invest in biofuels and renewable energy to provide additional income sources for the use of land. As we talk about the clean energy future of this country with climate change, I think they'll be other potential opportunities for income for our farm families.”

    The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $50,000 for renewable energy feasibility studies. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements will be considered. At least 20% of the grant funds awarded must be for grants of $20,000 or less.

    Detailed descriptions of the program provisions, application instructions, and USDA Rural Development State Office contacts are available in the Federal Register Notice (Vol. 74, No. 99, Tuesday, May 26, 2009). Information including a useful B&I/REAP comparison chart for loans and grants is available in the REAP/RES/EEI Annoucenment on the USDA web site.

    Synopses, forms, and online application systems are available at the Grants.gov web site:

  • Small Wind Grew 78% in 2008

    The U.S. market for small wind turbines—those with capacities of 100 kilowatts (kW) and less—grew 78% in 2008, with 17.3 megawatts (MW) of new electrical capacity, according to the 2008 AWEA Small Wind Global Market Study released by the American Wind Energy Association.

    Though small in comparison to the 8,500 MW of commercial-scale wind capacity added last year, the growth is significant with more than 10,000 turbines installed by businesses, schools, colleges, municipalities, and residential homeowners. Wind energy is now seen as a cost-efficient solution for energy needs, as 42% of all new power generation facilities in the U.S. last year included wind power. Public concern about energy independence and environmental issues have also played a role in this developing market.

    “Consumers are looking for affordable ways to improve their energy security and reduce their personal carbon footprint,” said Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s Small Wind Advocate. “Small wind technology can be an answer to that search. As government policies have caught up with consumer interest, we’re seeing people all across the U.S. take advantage of this abundant, domestic natural resource and U.S. manufacturers have been able to meet this increasing demand.”

    This unprecedented growth combined with the new 30% federal tax credit for small wind energy systems has U.S. small wind turbine manufacturers scaling up for even more growth in the future. The industry predicts a 30-fold increase in the US market over the next five years, even under current economic conditions.

  • Windustry to Organize Community Wind Energy Conferences

    Community Wind 2008 Conference
    Community Wind Conference 2008 in Albany, New York, organized by Windusty

    The United States Department of Energy (DOE) recently granted Windustry $100,000 to organize six regional Community Wind Energy Conferences over the next two years. Under its 20% Wind Energy by 2030 initiative, the DOE is investing in wind energy projects across the nation to advance market acceptance of wind energy in order to meet these renewable energy goals. Windustry will draw upon its extensive track record of organizing successful Community Wind Energy Conferences to approach new communities in key regions where wind energy development is growing rapidly.

    Please check back with our website for more details regarding timing and location of these Conferences in the next several months. If you would like any further information, contact Samantha Smart, Development Coordinator at samantha@windustry.org.

  • Minnesota Transmission Line to Carry Wind Energy

    ST. PAUL, MN, April 16, 2009 — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC) has granted the CapX2020 utilities a Certificate of Need to construct three 345-kilovolt electric transmission lines in Minnesota. The three lines will run from Fargo, SD to Monticello, MN; from Hampton, MN  through Rochester, MN to La Crosse, WI; and from Brookings, SD to Hampton, MN.


    CapX2020 is a joint project of 11 transmission-owning utilities in Minnesota and the surrounding region led by Great River Energy and Xcel Energy to expand the electric transmission grid. "Today's decision provides direction for new transmission that will ensure customers in and near Minnesota will continue to receive reliable electricity and help provide capacity to meet the nation's most aggressive renewable energy standard," said Terry Grove of Great River Energy.As part of its decision the MN PUC required that 700 megawatts of capacity on the Brookings-Hampton line to be reserved for renewable energy, which will allow electricity generated by wind farms in the Buffalo Ridge area of southwestern Minnesota to be transmitted to the Twin Cities area. Moreover, all will be capable for double circuit transmission lines to allow for increased capacity over time.

    Some environmentalists opposed the certificate of need, and other critics were concerned that the transmission lines favor existing large power plants over smaller renewable energy sources that would benefit from a different transmission grid infrastructure that was more widely distributed. The MN PUC decision was a compromise between the various propronents and opponents of the project, and it will have an impact on the ability to connect wind farms to the transmission grid in the Midwest.

    “It's clear that significant transmission will be needed to reach Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard,” commented Beth Soholt, director of Wind on the Wires, “and the Commission took an important step in granting the utilities the ability to construct the pieces of the transmission system that will deliver renewables to Minnesotans.”

    The MN PUC has yet to decide on the lines’ routes, with Route Permit applications currently under state review or in development, and decisions are expected in 2010. Regulatory processes are still pending for line segments in Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota; while an additional transmission line has been proposed between Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Construction of the lines could begin in 2012 and take several years to complete.

Pages