Energy

IRS Just Made It Easier For Wind Farms To Get Taxpayer Dollars

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just doubled the amount of time wind turbine owners have to claim lucrative federal subsidies, which could mean more taxpayer dollars flowing towards green energy projects.

IRS officials extended the “commence construction” phase of wind farms from two to fours years. This means energy companies have twice as much time to claim a federal production tax credit for generating power from green energy sources.

The government’s new guidance gives energy companies more time to claim $23 per megawatt hour of electricity produced from wind turbines. Extending wind tax credits was already slated to cost $14.5 billion, but now those costs could be significantly increased as companies get more time to grab tax dollars.

Congress passed legislation in December to extend a slew of green energy tax credits in exchange for Democratic support in lifting the decades-old ban on crude oil exports. PoliticoPro reports that the tax extenders deal last year also included a 5-year phase-out for wind power, which is why the deadline for getting the full subsidy was increased.

Next, the IRS will decide on “commence construction” phase requirements for solar panel owners who want federal support. Congressionally-extended solar energy tax credits are projected to cost taxpayers more than $10 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The IRS’s move to make it easier to get taxpayer dollars for generating wind power comes as the Obama administration ups the amount of birds wind turbines are allowed to inadvertently kill from 1,130 to 4,200.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which issued the ruling, said there are enough bald eagles to justify lifting the cap on bird killings by wind turbines. FWS, however, is not allowing higher take amounts for rarer golden eagles.

“We estimate there are about 143,000 bald eagles in the United States, and that populations continue to increase,” FWS will publish in the Federal Register Friday, according to the Washington Examiner. “Given their continued population growth above the 2009 baseline, there is considerable capacity to sustain take of bald eagles.”

For years, environmentalists have been critical of wind farms because of the amount of birds and bats they kill every year. A 2013 study estimated 888,000 bats and 573,000 birds were killed by U.S. wind turbines every year.

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