Two bills were introduced in the Idaho legislature last week, both of which could significantly impact the wind industry in Idaho. The first, H250, extends a sales or use tax rebate available to purchasers of qualifying machinery and equipment used in generating electricity from renewable resources. The rebate is currently set to expire as of July 1, 2011. Under the proposed legislation, the rebate would be extended for such purchases but only if the purchaser achieves commercial operation by December 31, 2014.

The second bill, H265, would impose a moratorium on the construction of new wind projects in Idaho for two years and directs the Interim Energy Committee to meet during that time and report on various wind related issues, including the impact of wind on power rates and the ability of utilities to integrate wind into their systems. The relevant moratorium language is excerpted below. Although initial reports of the bill stated that it would not apply to wind projects that are already under construction or have permits, that is not how the legislation is written. As proposed, it prohibits municipalities, counties and state agencies from "granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed one hundred (100) feet in height and have a nameplate capacity that exceeds one hundred (100) kilowatts." A plain reading of this language means that a fully developed and "almost" fully permitted project with wind turbines already delivered on-site could be subject to the moratorium because of the inability to obtain building or other ministerial permits, which some Idaho counties require as each individual turbine is constructed. We'll continue to monitor closely as the future of Idaho's wind industry is debated by the legislature.

61-1802. MORATORIUM ON CONSTRUCTION OF CERTAIN INDUSTRIAL WIND FARMS AND WIND TURBINES FOR A TIME CERTAIN. (1) From the effective date of this act until July 1, 2013, municipalities, counties and state agencies are prohibited from granting approval or issuing any new licenses or permits for the construction or operation of wind turbines that exceed one hundred (100) feet in height and have a nameplate capacity that exceeds one hundred (100) kilowatts. Projects that have been approved and for which the statute of limitations for legal proceedings of the state of Idaho against the project expire without any legal action against the project shall be allowed to be constructed. Projects for which legal proceedings are pending shall not be allowed to be constructed until the legal proceedings are complete and a court of competent jurisdiction finds that construction may proceed.