Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:50AM - 1211 Views

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BP Wind Energy had workers on overtime to make sure its Mehoopany Wind Farm in Wyoming County was fully on line by Dec. 31 to take full advantage of a tax credit set to expire.

On Friday, the company confirmed all 88 turbines for the Noxen-area project were operational before the ball dropped in Times Square, ringing in 2013.

Matt Hartwig, a BP spokesman, said the company was pleased that Congress included an extension of the Production Tax Credit as part of the fiscal cliff bill the president signed into law Wednesday. He called it a common-sense extension.

But with the uncertainty surrounding the extension, companies such as BP could not take a chance that it would be allowed to expire. That's why you saw a lot of wind farms rushing to get up and running in the fourth quarter, Hartwig said, noting that all three wind energy projects BP had started in 2012 were completed by the end of the year.

The tax credit could mean millions for energy producers as it's worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced by new wind installations for their first 10 years of operation. The Mehoopany site could produce up to 141 megawatts of power annually.

The extension included new language that offers the tax credit to any project that begins construction this year, even if it goes online in 2014, according to Hartwig, which he said likely will lead to additional projects that might have been on hold.

The American Wind Energy Association, the national trade association of the nation's wind industry, lauded the extension.

The $250 million Mehoopany Wind Farm spans a 9,000-acre site that incorporates parts of Noxen, Forkston, Mehoopany and Eaton townships. It is one of the many ways America can lower its dependency on foreign oil, according to a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

Sen. Casey believes Congress should work in a bipartisan fashion to help wean the U.S. off foreign oil because it will reduce the price at the pump, create Pennsylvania jobs and grow the economy, said John Rizzo, Casey's press secretary. He noted Casey supported the tax credit extension.

Two of the region's Republican congressmen who voted for the fiscal cliff prevention legislation voiced concerns over the wind energy tax credit portion.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Lycoming Township, had the Mehoopany Wind Farm in his 10th Congressional District before redistricting took effect this year. He supported the extension of the tax credit but remained non-committal regarding future support of the industry.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, whose 11th Congressional District now includes Wyoming County, is not fully in favor of the tax credit.

The extension of the tax credit is not something I'd support on its own, said Barletta, R-Hazleton. I believe alternative energy sources are important, but I don't believe the government should pick winners and losers. But because the bill avoided the fiscal cliff, gave tax cuts to 99 percent of Americans, and made tax cuts permanent, I supported it.

Hartwig said that between 10 and 15 permanent jobs have been created to monitor and maintain the Mehoopany facility and more than 400 jobs were created during the peak of construction of the facility.

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