Congress extends federal Treasury grant program for renewable energy projects
Solar and wind power companies are celebrating after the 1603 Treasury grant program, which was lumped into the overall tax package after heavy industry lobbying, cleared the House. The program, which would have expired at the end of the year, now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it by Friday afternoon.
The Treasury program, which covers up to 30% of the cost of alternative energy projects, has supported more than 100,000 jobs and $18 billion in investment for thousands of installations, industry leaders said.
“Orders will be on the rise for new wind power, and investors will put more capital into the U.S. economy because of what happened in Congress last night,” said Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Assn., in a statement.
The run-up to the vote had been a nail-biting experience as developers rushed to meet the deadline in case the extension effort failed, said Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Assn.
“It was kind of a roller coaster there,” he said. There were a lot of projects that were getting close to being canceled. Now, this gives them some flexibility to get their financing together and start construction at a time when they need it most.”
Industry leaders are hoping that the renewal of the program is a sign of future bipartisan backing for alternative energy. They’re already looking forward to this time next year, when they will likely be pushing for yet another extension on the program.
But for now, the one-year reprieve will do quite nicely, Resch said.
“It keeps the lights on, keeps us growing,” he said. “There are a lot of happy people in the industry today, and 2011 is looking like it’ll be a true breakout year.”
Photo: An old-fashioned windmill stands in contrast to the new wind turbines along the Susquehanna River in western Lancaster County, Pa. Credit: Marty Heisey / Lancaster Intelligencer Journal via Associated Press