Iowans who buy small wind turbines or launch other small-scale “alternative” energy projects could qualify for a state tax break if the governor signs a bill the House gave its final approval on Monday. Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from LeMars who’s a V.P. for the Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative, says the tax break would be for wind turbines or for projects that convert solar power, methane or even switchgrass to electricity. “It’s intended for small production and those that do qualify to participate in this are farm corporations, limited liability companies, farm trusts, small businesses, electric coops, and school districts,” Soderberg says. The tax credit would last ten years and be worth one-and-a-half cents per kilowatt hour generated. “Really intended for small producers, locally-owned, what you would find in our rural areas,” Soderberg says. Representative Don Shoultz, a Democrat from Waterloo, says it’ll be a boost to rural Iowa. “For our local communities out there, for our local bankers, for our small business people, for our farmers out there and that’s where the real economic development comes in in this small, locally-owned, locally-developed and locally-financed operation,” Shoultz says. He says Iowa imports most of its energy, and this would help reverse that trend. He says it’s important to bring some energy dollars into the state instead of sending them to Wyoming and Montana and other places.Representative Mary Lou Freeman, a Republican from Alta, says utility companies have installed wind turbines in her area. “The people (who) own the land are profiting from it. It’s adding value to the land,” Freeman says. “This bill takes it one step further and allows those land owners to build their own generation.” But Representative Ralph Watts, a Republican from Adel who retired after managing an electric and gas company, is a staunch opponent of the bill. Watts says no wind turbine can profit without a government subsidy. “And it probably never will unless there’s a radical change in the technology that we aren’t seeing in any of the wind turbines that are being installed in the state right now,” Watts says. “Where is the economic benefit in that?” Watts says. “I can’t believe it.” Representative Willard Jenkins, a Republican from Waterloo, argued for a smaller state tax break. “Just drive up Interstate 35 north of Des Moines and you will find plenty of testimony that we can get construction of wind mills without a state subsidy,” Jenkins says. Despite those objections, the bill passed the House on a 79-to-16 vote. It had passed the Senate earlier and bill backers expect Governor Vilsack to sign the bill into law.
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