Credit helps generate jobs and economic benefits, keep air clean

November 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

By 

Judith Albert

Executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs

Thursday November 22, 2012 5:31 AM

If Ohioans want good jobs, clean energy and clean air, then Ohioans should want to renew the
federal wind-energy-production tax credit.

When considering whether to renew the credit, consider this:

• More than 50 manufacturing companies that make everything from bearings to blades for wind
turbines now call Ohio home, employing more than 5,000 workers, according to the American Wind
Energy Association. For a manufacturing sector that has taken so many hits in recent years, the
wind industry is a welcome breath of fresh air.

• New wind farms are generating other economic benefits, as well, with every kilowatt of clean,
renewable energy they’re producing. Construction of the 152-turbine Blue Creek Wind Farm in western
Ohio, for instance, pumped more than $20 million into the local economy. As the biggest taxpayer in
Van Wert County, it will pump tens of millions more into the local community. The electricity it
produces, meanwhile, comes all the way to Columbus: Just last month, Ohio State University agreed
to get about 25 percent of its power from the wind farm.

• By replacing power that would otherwise come from power plants fueled by coal or other fossil
fuels, Ohio’s wind farms will avoid an estimated 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions
annually, as well as other pollution such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Reducing pollution
means reducing health problems, reducing medical expenses and reducing lost work and school days.
And healthier workers and children mean a healthier economy.

For a prime example of what the wind industry has meant to the state, visit Canton. Once one of
the hardest-hit cities in America by the decline in U.S. manufacturing, the wind-energy industry
has Canton’s manufacturing base on the mend.

Nearly 20 companies in Canton — from big corporations such as bearing maker Timken to
mom-and-pop machine shops — now supply products to the wind industry. The average salary for wind
technicians in Canton is $86,350. The industry is now such an important part of the local economy
that Stark State College is building a nearly $12 million Wind Energy Research and Development
Center to train the wind-industry workers of tomorrow.

If the production tax credit for the wind industry goes away, good manufacturing jobs in Canton,
in Columbus and all across Ohio will likely go away, too. New wind farms like the one in Van Wert
County will have a much harder time getting started. And students at training centers like the one
being built at Stark State College will have a tougher time finding jobs.

Already, uncertainty over the fate of the production tax credit is resulting in widespread
layoffs throughout the wind industry. More than 3,000 industry jobs have been lost already this
year, according to analysis from my group.

Ultimately, more than 37,000 Americans who work in the industry will lose their jobs if the
credit is not renewed, Navigant Consulting estimates. Wind-industry developers and manufacturers
just can’t plan for future projects without knowing what will happen to the tax credit after Dec.
31, when it is set to expire.

Remember why the production tax credit was created and how it works. The credit is designed to
help level the playing field between the wind industry and the fossil-fuel industry, which has
received nearly $500 billion in subsidies over the past century.

This isn’t some government handout. Wind companies can claim the 2.2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour tax
credit only for electricity they produce and put on the grid. In the past four years, it has helped
drive down wind-farm operating costs by nearly 40 percent, delivering less-expensive renewable
energy for consumers.

Especially when you consider the jobs and other economic and environmental benefits that come
with it, the credit is a real bargain and a great economic-development tool that’s helping
revitalize Ohio and other states, as well.

Judith Albert is executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, an national nonprofit,
nonpartisan organization that advocates for sound environmental policies that lead to economic
prosperity.

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