A study released this week by environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment recommends the federal government extend energy production tax credits for the wind power industry to ensure the future growth of clean energy production.
The tax credit for new turbine projects, which supports projects like the BP Mehoopany Wind Farm under construction in Wyoming County, is set to expire at the end of the year.
The study claims wind energy precludes about 68 million metric tons of air pollution annually in the United States, the equivalent of taking 13 million cars off the road. If current construction trends continue that could increase by 82 percent by 2016.
PennEnvironment released the study to The Times Leader and held a press conference in Scranton to unveil it. The study was written by Elizabeth Ridlington and Jordan Schneider of Frontier Group, which has offices in Santa Barbara, Calif. and Boston, and Rob Sargent and Courtney Abrams of Environment America Research and Policy Center, Washington D.C.
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, wind farms do not use the large volumes of water consumed by the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries, the study states, claiming wind farms conserve 26 billion gallons of water per year, enough to meet the annual domestic use needs of a city the size of Boston.
According to the study, Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation in wind energy production at 1.96 million megawatt hours per year. Wind farms under construction in the state like the Mehoopany project are expected to add 940,000 megawatt hours in production capability. When complete those projects would bump the state up to 15th place.
The leading wind producing state, Texas, produces approximately 30 million megawatt hours per year, more than 15 times Pennsylvania's production.
In addition to extending federal tax incentives for wind farm construction, the study recommends states implement renewable electricity standards, which Pennsylvania has, and that policymakers should prioritize upgrading and expanding existing electricity infrastructure to connect areas with high electricity demand to areas of high wind energy output.