A broad nonpartisan coalition of 369 members, including farm interests, as well as the bipartisan Governors' Wind Energy Coalition are endorsing legislation that would grant a four-year extension to the Production Tax Credit for wind energy. The measure was recently introduced by Representatives Dave Reichert, R-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
Iowa Farm Bureau Bio-Economy Manager Dennis Harding says the wind industry like most green energy industries is relatively new and is growing. But he says the tax credit is needed to ensure continued growth of the industry.
"It's kind of what all industries are asking for and that is some kind of certainty in the system," Harding said. "So with a four-year production tax credit that would ensure some certainty into the wind energy industry that then leads to a more confident investment that is taking place."
Which in turn Harding says supports thousands of jobs. According to Harding the American wind industry is on track to provide 20% of the nation's electricity and support some 500,000 American jobs in less than 20 years. Already he says wind energy is powering one of America's fastest growing manufacturing sectors, with U.S. domestic production of wind turbine components growing 12-fold in just six years. There are now more than 400 facilities in 43 states, bringing jobs back to the U.S. from overseas.
"We now have several manufacturers that have located in our state, creating jobs," Harding said. "A lot of these jobs are in rural areas of the state, and they are not just all the same type of jobs, there is a nice variety. I think that's what we like to see in our rural population; jobs that are connected to the development of the wind farms, or to the maintenance and then there also very technical jobs that are connected so you get a nice diverse job base out there that is attractive to a lot of people."
When the credit was allowed to expire in the past, installations dropped 73% to 93%, resulting in significant job losses. Extending the Production Tax Credit Harding says will ensure the U.S. can continue to add wind energy manufacturing jobs. He says it will also allow wind energy to continue powering rural economic development, and provide farmers and ranchers with a new cash crop.
"For farmers it is a nice way to assure some type of income that is coming into the operation," Harding said. "Another benefit is the fact that it doesn't really take up much space. It doesn't use any of your resources in terms of water or nutrients, in fact it takes a resource that you haven't been able to capture, the wind, and turn it into something valuable. So it is a very non-invasive type of income production that doesn't disrupt the regular farming operation."
The Production Tax Credit will expire in 2012 if Congress doesn't act. Not only will failure to extend the credit lead to job losses, Harding says it will put the brakes on the progress the nation has made in including clean, affordable, homegrown energy as part of the U.S. electricity portfolio. He notes the U.S. will continue to have a need for energy, and the more diverse the portfolio the better it is for U.S. consumers.