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Advanced Power Alliance Recognizes Texas State Representative Jim Murphy as “Texas Energy Champion”

June 25, 2019 – Advanced Power Alliance President Jeff Clark and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Vice President Susan Sloan presented the “Texas Energy Champion” award to Texas State Representative Jim Murphy (District 133 – West Houston) at a meeting in Houston this morning.

The award was presented by the APA and AWEA in recognition of Murphy’s policy work to support economic development in the state, and for his commitment to promoting all of Texas’ diverse energy industries. Representative Murphy is serving his sixth term in the Texas House where he chairs the Committee on Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services and serves as a member of the Committee on Ways and Means.

In presenting the award to Chairman Murphy, Clark cited the Chairman’s willingness to make economic development a priority for the state:

“Because of his expertise in important business and economic development issues, his commitment to growing our state’s economy, and his willingness to work with all stakeholders, Chairman Murphy is a respected and effective member of the Texas House of Representatives.

“He is a lawmaker who wants to see Texas to achieve its incredible economic potential and he is working to enact free market policies to promote prosperity and ensure that our state remains internationally competitive.

“His work to promote all of Texas’ diverse energy industries is paying dividends by creating a business climate that attracts capital investment and creates job opportunities for workers across the state. That translates into a better quality of life for all Texans.

“This Texas Energy Champion award represents the appreciation of our many energy industries and their employees, from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande and from the Rockies to the Piney Woods. Chairman Murphy’s visionary work is helping to create jobs and keep Texas in the forefront as America’s energy leader.”

Jeff Clark, President
Advanced Power Alliance

When Wind Turbines Move to Town – How Do Rural Communities Benefit?

By Anna Luke, American Wind Energy Association
Originally published on Into the Wind

It wasn’t always the case, but nowadays rural places are often among those in greatest need of new economic development. Sadly, the farm belt and Rust Belt have been losing jobs and investment for decades. It will take significant change to raise up rural communities, including welcoming new opportunities like wind. Rural areas already are home to 99 percent of the country’s wind turbines, with more on the way.

Building a wind farm can be a big change for a small town, but a number of benefits come along with those changes, including:

1. Job Creation

Hundreds of construction workers come to town during the build-out, bringing new regulars to the local diner. And full-time employees will have jobs at the wind farm, often a major new town employer. There are now more than 100,000 people working in the wind industry, and wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in America. This is a huge opportunity for young men and women who are looking for good-paying jobs in rural towns.


2. Economic Development

It’s typically pretty rare when a multi-million dollar economic investment comes knocking at the door of a small town. When else does that happen? Maybe when a new superstore wants to open a location near you or a sports team relocates to your area.

3. Increased tax revenue and/or lower taxes for individuals

When April 15 rolls around, how would you like to pay no local taxes? For the town of Sheldon, N.Y., the project generated so much tax revenue that local residents paid no taxes for eight years. Payments went to improving roads, building a basketball court at the town park, and erecting new walls at the town’s cemeteries.


4. Landowner Lease Payments

Rural landowners receive nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in lease payments every year for hosting wind turbines, acting as their new “drought-resistant cash crop.” Many project developers also provide payments to other residents living nearby as a goodwill gesture as well. These payments are significant income streams and can help keep the farm in the family.


5. Funding for Community Projects

The companies that own wind projects want to be good corporate citizens, and often donate to local charities and community projects like parades, restoration efforts, and youth clubs. For example, Enel Green Power North America and TradeWind donated $50,000 to renovate Leonardo Children’s Museum in Enid, Oklahoma, which included improvements like an interactive Power Tower exhibit on oil, natural gas, wind and solar power.

Utility-scale wind projects are a big adjustment for small communities, but they bring significant benefits to town. To hear about some on-the-ground experiences with wind, check out some more YouTube testimonials.

Enid Regional Development Alliance: To Grow, We Must Keep Our Promises

By Brent Kisling, Executive Director, Enid Regional Development Alliance

Let’s suppose for a moment that you were about to purchase your first home.  You found the perfect house that you intend to live in for the rest of your life.

But like most new home buyers, you don’t have enough cash to purchase the home so you start shopping around to find a bank to loan you the money.  Each bank carefully competes to get your business.  Some offer you a 5% interest rate and others offer you less.  Let’s suppose that after careful consideration you decide to go with the bank that offers you a 3% fixed rate loan for 10 years.  You move out of your apartment and start living your life in this new home.

Now let’s suppose that after a few years, even though you have kept your side of the bargain and paid your loan payment every month, that the bank sends you a notice that they are changing your interest rate to 5%.  You would be livid and you would never do business with that bank ever again…right?

Oklahoma is attempting to do the same thing right now with the wind industry.

About 15 years ago we made a conscious decision to diversify our economy and “compete” with other states by incentivizing the wind industry to come to our state.  It worked!  But, except for college football, we aren’t used to being this successful at something.  We went from almost zero wind investment to over $9 billion.

Now our State Legislature is saying that since we already have their investment and they can’t really move the wind farms elsewhere, let’s change the rules and cap the incentive each year that we promised them.  Just like the bank changing the rules on your loan, if we go through with this, we will never be able to make a promise to a company ever again…in the wind industry…or any other.

In Garfield County, the wind industry has been revolutionary for us.

We have had $500 million in investment in our county alone.  These farms have a 20 year contract to operate in our area.  Over that 20 year span, these wind farm owners will pay out approximately $100 million in property taxes (about half of which goes to K-12 public schools).  They will also pay about $4.8 million per year in landowner payments.  This is the equivalent of a new employer hiring 133 people at our county average wage and then promising to invest in that payroll every year for 20 years.  We would fall all over ourselves to see an investment like that, but instead, we are considering changing the rules mid-game.

Oklahoma now has the 3rd most installed wind energy capacity in the country and it is becoming a mature industry in our state.  Enid and other communities are now starting to work with manufacturing facilities that want to be close to the farms in our area.  Please Oklahoma, keep your promises so they will continue to want to do business with us.

Rural Texas Speaks Out: Tells Lawmakers to Keep Supporting Chapter 313

One of the most valuable tools Texas uses to attract major investments to Texas is currently under assault in the legislature.  Lawmakers in Austin who don’t understand the innovative Chapter 313 program, are working to take this tool away from Texas counties and school districts.  The loss would be felt immediately, especially in rural areas that have used 313 to attract more than $32 billion in wind energy investments.

WIND BENEFITS ALL OF TEXAS.  Texas has benefited tremendously from wind energy’s growth.  Wind is bringing cheaper power to consumers statewide.  Wind is bringing new revenue streams to support farmers and ranchers.  Wind is creating new high-quality jobs, delivering economic opportunity in our rural communities.  And, wind is creating new, stable, long-term tax revenue for local governments and schools.

Wind energy has become the reliable, affordable, stably priced energy source that other industries rely on too.  More and more companies are committing to use wind energy from Texas to make their manufacturing cheaper, and to guarantee long-term affordably priced power.  From our chemical manufacturers on the Gulf Coast, to our automobile manufacturers in the Metroplex, to small factories in towns across the state; leading American companies are using Texas wind energy to be competitive and that wind is making Texas more attractive for job-creating investments.

313 WORKS FOR RURAL TEXAS.  One of the reasons that wind energy has been competitive in Texas is the Chapter 313 program.  As rural communities know well, Chapter 313 in our tax code gives local communities and school districts a discretionary tool to help attracts investments that grow the economy.  This essential tool helps communities compete against other states where taxes are lower by offering a short-term property tax reduction. Because wind energy projects are long-term projects with expected lives of 25 years or more, a short-term tax incentive delivers long-term value to schools and other property tax payers.

The attack on the ability of rural communities to attract investment is real.  If certain lawmakers in the capitol have their way, one of the most valuable and flexible economic development tools available to rural Texas will disappear, or be limited dramatically.  In some cases, proposed changes target wind energy development.  That means that, while other areas of the state will benefit from the program in other industries, rural areas with rich wind energy resources, will be left behind.

That’s why rural constituents are reaching out to Austin, keeping the pressure on until the legislature adjourn on May 29th.  Until then, they’ll be reminding them that rural Texas needs tools to attract investments and grow rural economies.  The Chapter 313 program is one of the most important tools available today, a critically important tool for rural economic development, and one that community leaders rely on to grow their tax base and economy that funds local schools and communities.

If you have questions about the 313 program, please contact Alerts@WindCoalition.org.

Clearing the Air: Lamar Alexander, You’re Wrong About Wind Power

by Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project could inject large quantities of high-value, low-cost wind power directly into the Tennessee Valley region from western Oklahoma. Recently Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) spoke on the senate floor in opposition to the project, and wind energy. We are disappointed that Sen. Alexander continues to use outdated information regarding wind energy. He has a responsibility to support the best interests of his constituents; however, his personal opposition to wind power is clouding the interests of Tennesseans.

Sen. Alexander says that wind power is unreliable. However, Oklahoma’s regional grid operator (the Southwest Power Pool, or SPP) recently reached a record wind power penetration level: at one point, the entire region generated 52% of its electricity from wind power. SPP is eyeing perhaps 75% wind energy penetration levels in the long-term. As shown by Oklahoma’s example, wind power can provide low-cost, reliable energy.

Sen. Alexander says that wind power is expensive. However, his information is outdated. With its considerable wind energy resources, Oklahoma had the lowest electricity prices in the country last year. Tennessee ranked #28.

Sen. Alexander would have Tennessee turn its back on the single energy resource that is arguably doing the most to drive energy prices down all across the country.

Clean Line will have a small but beneficial impact on TVA rates. TVA’s fuel costs could be reduced by $136 million per year, reducing rates by about 0.05 – 0.1 cents per kWh. High natural gas prices would increase the savings. Click the graph above to download the full analysis by SACE.

Sen. Alexander says that a long-term contract would put TVA’s low cost power at risk. In the US Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement for the Clean Line project, Leidos Electrical estimated that the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is likely to drive down electric prices in Tennessee, Arkansas, and beyond. Our team has studied the impacts on the actual rates TVA charges its customers, and concluded that the project would drive down TVA’s costs and electric rates. This benefit increases when the revenue TVA would earn from its fees for use of the existing TVA transmission system to “wheel” low-cost wind power to power-hungry neighbors.

Sen. Alexander criticizes wind energy, based on historical information from the Buffalo Mountain wind farm in Tennessee. That project became operational 13 years ago (in 2004), and wind turbine technology has advanced significantly since then. While the Buffalo Mountain project achieves capacity factors of approximately 20% per year, as expected, the LBNL study also shows new turbine capacity factors already exceeding 50%+ in high wind speed areas. Western Oklahoma wind farms could achieve 55%+ capacity factors. With oversubscription on an HVDC transmission line, capacity factors could go even higher.

Sen. Alexander says that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s integrated resource plan shows it does not need new baseload power plant capacity. On this point, we agree. We participated heavily in TVA’s most recent integrated resource planning process. TVA found that new baseload power plants, such as new coal and nuclear units, are not needed.

Raising this point is a red herring because wind power is not a baseload capacity resource. The Clean Line project delivers most of its potential value as an energy resource. Low-cost wind energy, when available, reduces costs by helping TVA further minimize its highest cost power plants. This is exactly how the high levels of wind power in Oklahoma have pushed its electric rates to the lowest levels in the country.

What Sen. Alexander did not mention in his floor speech is that he advocates for massive subsidies for untested, unproven and costly small-modular nuclear reactors – a baseload power resource, which Sen. Alexander says (with respect to wind) that TVA doesn’t need.

Sen. Alexander claims that the federal production tax credit for wind energy is a “wasteful” incentive. However, the PTC is phasing out, despite the fact that fossil fuel and nuclear industries still receive massive federal subsidies. The PTC has broad bipartisan support; even Sen. Alexander has voted for legislative packages that contained PTC extensions. Wind farm development companies need to sign contracts soon to qualify for the highest level of this important tax credit. Wind energy projects may up to four years to finish construction, after qualifying for the PTC. Projects that qualified in 2016 would have until December 31, 2020 to deliver power and retain their qualifying status. Project development firms need some level of assurance that projects have buyers. As the PTC begins to phase out, TVA – and its customers – will lose the opportunity to save tens of millions of dollars in savings if nothing is done.

Senator Lamar Alexander’s bluster against wind energy relies on outdated misinformation, that ignores current realities. TVA, and other electric companies throughout the region, should contract for wind energy on the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project, soon.

In the News: Rural Nebraska Lawmaker Sees Wind Energy as an Urgent Lifeline

By Karen Uhlenhuth; From Nebraska Energy News

Read the story online at:  http://midwestenergynews.com/2015/12/16/rural-nebraska-lawmaker-sees-wind-energy-as-an-urgent-lifeline/ 

Nebraska state Sen. Al Davis is a rancher, a longtime resident of rural Nebraska, a proponent of renewable energy, and a Republican. Now going into his fourth year as a state legislator, Davis views this as a propitious moment for his home state to convert much more its abundant wind into exportable energy.

Living in the Sandhills community of Hyannis, with a population of just under 200, he has witnessed the challenges that threaten sparsely populated rural America. His district, which is roughly twice the size of New Jersey in area, has fewer than 40,000 people, and that population is declining.

One way to reverse that trend, he believes, lies in the development of wind energy.

Midwest Energy News asked him to elaborate on his observations and his vision for Nebraska’s future.

Midwest Energy News: You’re a member of a rather small club – Republican supporters of clean energy. How did that happen?

Davis: I look at a lot of what I do in terms of what will benefit my district. I have a wind energy association – the Cherry County Wind Association – in my district. I’m very eager to see that develop.

What is the Cherry County Wind Association?

It’s a group of landowners who have gotten together their 400,000 acres, and their goal is to get wind energy developed in Cherry County. My district is very rural, and we are constantly fighting depopulation. We have this tremendous natural resource out there that should be developed. If it is, it might help to repopulate rural Nebraska.

If wind is going to be developed, we can do it in Nebraska, or we can let it happen somewhere else. There are really pretty significant property tax benefits to wind energy, and that is something we grapple with in Nebraska. We have extremely high property tax rates. Statewide, they average maybe second highest in the country.

Public education is the big driver of property taxes. As far as state government, we are 49th in terms of state funding of public education. So that means the vast majority of funding has to come from property taxes.

So you’re interested in wind energy primarily as an economic development tool, to bring in people?

Yes, western Nebraska is depopulating so quickly, and services are very hard to bring together. [Some] students drive 50 miles one way to to go to school. Wind energy could bring jobs and some stability to some of these areas of Nebraska.

Are you interested in solar energy as well?

Definitely. Amazingly enough, you wouldn’t think of western Nebraska as good solar territory. But because we have sunny days and dry air, there’s more potential there than you might think. I think solar really has a future.

Are you pursuing solar at all in the legislature?

Yes. When wind was developed in the state, everything with the turbine was classified as personal property, which depreciates very quickly. The worry was that we’d have an abundance (of tax revenue) the first few years, then it would be depreciated and there would be nothing left.

The legislature passed the nameplate capacity tax. That changed the way it’s taxed. (The property tax) is lower at first for the development company, but it stabilizes income for the taxing entities….over the life of the turbine.

Solar was not a part of that…..I introduced a bill last year…..We put that in place last year so solar now is treated the same as a wind turbine….It’s never good for a taxing entity to have a huge influx of taxes one year, and then have that depreciate out. Now, they always know what the tax will be.

What sort of clean-energy debate do you expect in the upcoming session?

I think there will be a bill to strip protections from public power. In Nebraska, if a project is built by anyone, public power has the right to say, “We want that project; we want to own that project.” That dampens the ability of developers to come in. There may be some discussion to eliminate that.

What is discouraged by that prerogative for public power?

I think it discourages development. If you want to build a project, you’re going to go to a state where there isn’t that regulation.

Is there much support in the Nebraska legislature for clean energy?

I think we’ve got a lot interest in it in Nebraska. We have had low power rates in Nebraska, and everybody was satisfied with the current arrangement. But rates have been climbing, and Nebraska is losing its distinction as low-rate state.

Iowa has a big wind industry even though its resource isn’t as good as ours. Kansas and Oklahoma have done a lot, and Colorado has a big wind industry. My colleagues are saying that if we don’t do something quickly, our opportunity will be gone. We’ll buy wind from other states.

One problem in Nebraska is we generate more energy than can consume much of the year, so it’s hard to prove a need for more energy. If we’re going to do anything, we have to look to the export market. That means we have to come up with a way to encourage transmission and remove barriers to transmission construction.

What barriers to you see out there?

The biggest barrier we have is that Nebraska is not a very populated state. We need to look to market that power elsewhere, whether it’s to the front range in Colorado or Kansas City or Chicago. Because of our location, transmission is going to be very costly. And turbines are getting more and more efficient all the time, so you can build in less-windy areas and get more energy.

If you were going to serve Chicago, you could build a turbine in rural Illinois and create as much energy (as in a windier place like Nebraska.) That’s a big problem for us. We have to think outside the box as far as how we’re going to get the transmission built.

Are you feeling the clock ticking?

I definitely think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

How hopeful are you that leaders in the state will do something about wind in time?

I am optimistic, but I’m a realist. We’re going to need a production tax credit, and….the rules and regulations that have inhibited development, those will have to go away.

And then I’d love to see – Berkshire Hathaway, I’m going to throw out a name – that’s the owner of most Nebraska wind energy – an entity like that has the resources to do transmission. If we could remove the restrictions, I think that would be viable. If we can get the transmission done, we can compete with anyone. It we wait, it’ll be too late. We’ll be the only state in the Great Plains that doesn’t have a significant portfolio of renewable resources.

I think the thing that would most quickly move Nebraska to a more renewable-friendly status is if we were to lose out on a high-tech industry that wants to go to a state with more green energy. Facebook was looking at Kearney (a city in central Nebraska) and someplace in Iowa (to develop a data center). They went to Iowa because Iowa had more green energy. That seemed to mobilize interest here that I didn’t see before.

Nothing drives economic change like a corporation saying, “We want something different.”

Southern Company Subsidiary’s First Wind Project in Operation

Atlanta, Georgia — Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power today announced its first wind project, the 299-megawatt (MW) Kay Wind facility in Kay County, Oklahoma, is fully operational.

“The completion of Kay Wind – Southern Power’s first wind project – marks an important milestone for our company,” said Southern Power President and Chief Executive Officer Oscar C. Harper. “Renewables remain a central focus as we continue developing sustainable energy solutions through projects that align with Southern Power’s conservative business model.”

The electricity and associated renewable energy credits (RECs) generated by the facility will be sold under 20-year power purchase agreements with Westar Energy Inc. in Kansas and Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) in Oklahoma. Westar Energy has contracted for approximately 199 MW, and GRDA has contracted for approximately 100 MW. Both companies will have the option to either keep or sell the RECs.

Apex Clean Energy developed and will operate and maintain the facility. Blattner Energy Inc. served as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

The Kay Wind project consists of 130 wind turbines manufactured by Siemens and is capable of generating enough electricity to help meet the energy needs of approximately 100,000 average U.S. homes. Southern Power has also entered into an agreement to acquire the Grant Wind facility – a 150-MW project in Grant County, Oklahoma – upon successful completion of construction, which is expected to be in 2016. The facility is expected to utilize 66 wind turbines manufactured by Siemens.

Serving nearly 700,000 customers for more than a century, Westar Energy is Kansas’ largest electric utility. GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility, producing electricity that touches 75 of the 77 counties in the state. Apex Clean Energy is an independent renewable energy company focused on building utility-scale generation facilities, with one of the nation’s largest, most diversified portfolios of renewable energy resources, capable of producing more than 12,000 MW of clean energy.

The Kay Wind project fits Southern Power’s business strategy of growing its wholesale business through the acquisition and construction of generating assets substantially covered by long-term contracts.

About Southern Power
Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, is a leading U.S. wholesale energy provider, meeting the electricity needs of municipalities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. Southern Power and its subsidiaries own or have rights to 32 facilities in nine states, with more than 10,300 MW of generating capacity operating or under development in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

About Southern Company
With more than 4.5 million customers and approximately 46,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast through its subsidiaries. A leading U.S. producer of clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices that are below the national average. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation, Southern Company and its subsidiaries are inventing America’s energy future by developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including nuclear, 21st century coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency, and creating new products and services for the benefit of customers. Southern Company has been named by the U.S. Department of Defense and G.I. Jobs magazine as a top military employer, listed by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the 40 Best Companies for Diversity and designated a 2014 Top Employer for Hispanics by Hispanic Network. The company earned the 2014 National Award of Nuclear Science and History from the National Atomic Museum Foundation for its leadership and commitment to nuclear development, and is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune’s annual World’s Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings. Visit our website at www.southerncompany.com.