A new report by Environment Virginia shows Virginia is missing health and environmental benefits of wind power for the Commonwealth.
One thing stopping Virginia from entering into this clean energy production is the possible end of tax credits to build wind turbines.
The Production Tax Credit and Offshore Wind Investment Tax Credit are tied to the financial crisis in Washington, D. C. and are slated to be eliminated at the end of the year.
“Our message for Congress today is clear,” says Sarah Bucci from Environment Virginia. “Don’t throw wind power off the fiscal cliff.”
She says Virginia has a great potential for wind energy, in the mountains and off the coast. “There are approximately 94 gigawatts of offshore wind energy potential within 50 nautical miles off of Virginia’s coast. And Virginia’s combined wind resources, on and off shore, could provide 4 ½ times the state’s current electricity needs.
If the wind energy tax credits are extended, Bucci says by 2016 Virginia could reduce global warming pollution, the equivalent of taking 14,000 cars off the road in the Commonwealth. She says national efforts to reduce global warming through the use of wind energy are taking 13 million cars off the highways each year.
The Roanoke Valley is already being affected by the looming financial crisis. The wind energy project slated for Poor Mountain has been put on hold until at least 2015 due to the uncertainty of receiving federal tax credits. Wind energy proponents also say Virginia needs to kick in some funding to encourage clean energy companies to build wind farms in the Commonwealth.
Some Roanoke Valley jobs are at risk if the tax credits aren’t renewed. Former Roanoke City Councilman Rupert Cutler says General Electric in Salem manufactures components for wind turbines. “You can’t expect General Electric to continue to manufacture wind turbine parts if the federal incentive for wind energy goes away because right now, that’s essential to the wind energy industry.” Cutler says he knows the wind turbines are an important part of the Salem business. G. E. didn’t return calls by press time to respond to Cutler’s comments.
Dr. Stuart Tousman of the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition, says this disease affects more than seven percent of Virginians. “And these respiratory problems can certainly be traced, in large part, to air pollution. So we are very supportive of this particular initiative in regards to wind power . . . respiratory problems  are certainly a big problem in the state of Virginia.”
Mark McClain of the Roanoke Cool Cities Coalition echoed Tousman’s plea for the tax credits to continue. “The combustion of fossil fuels-coal, oil, and natural gas-are harmful to human health and our natural environment.”
Bucci is urging Virginians to contact U. S. Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb and the rest of Virginia’s Congressional delegation to extend the wind energy tax credits before the end of the year. “Our clean air, water, and children’s future depend on it”, she said.
– Beverley Amsler