Galesburg hopes to lure wind energy jobs – Galesburg Register

April 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Wind energy continues to grow in importance, now accounting for 75,000 jobs in the United States, 30,000 of those in manufacturing. Officials in Galesburg earlier this week began work to try to bring some of those jobs here, perhaps building components for wind turbines.

Iowa is second in the nation in wind power capacity, while Illinois is fourth. The Hawkeye State leads the way in manufacturing of wind power components, while Illinois is third. That would seem to set up an ideal situation for the Galesburg area to tap into the growing number of wind energy jobs.

Eric Dilts, incubator director at the Sustainable Business Center, said he had a long conversation about wind energy earlier this week with city Economic Development Director Cesar Suarez. Dilts has long been trying to gauge which direction the wind is blowing and the decision was made that the time is right to begin courting jobs.

Galesburg’s efforts began the same week as the American Wind Energy Association released its 2011 Annual Market Report. According to the report, wind power produced 35 percent of all new U.S. electric generation capacity in the past five years, trailing only natural gas. The industry has brought in as much as $20 billion annually in private investment to the U.S. during that time.

“This shows what wind power is capable of: building new projects, powering local economies, and creating jobs,” Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association, said Thursday during a webinar to discuss the annual report.

SBC officials have explored the potential of the industry for this area. Dilts and Global Strategies Director Gary Camarano recent attended an American Wind Energy Association Midwest Energy Conference in Chicago.

Dilts has targeted the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center in Peoria as another contract. He said the organization held a wind energy supply chain seminar.

“If we have a local manufacturer making a particular part, can that part be modified to be used in a wind turbine?” he said is a question that needs to be answered. “I’m trying to get with them to see if they’ll come to Galesburg.

Of importance to wind energy’s future — and any possibility it could create jobs in Galesburg — is the extension of the Production Tax Credit. The Wind Energy Production Tax Credit is set to expire in 2012 unless Congress acts. A recent report by Navigant Consulting showed if the tax credit is allowed to expire, jobs in the wind industry will be cut in half, while private investment would drop by nearly two thirds.

Conversely, the study showed extending the PTC would allow the wind industry to grow to almost 100,000 American jobs in four years and stay on track toward supporting 500,000 U.S. jobs by 2030.

American Wind Energy Association officials said the extension, which has some bipartisan support, ideally would be approved before Congress breaks in August for election campaigning. AWEA officials said during Thursday’s review of the annual report there are no wind power projects on the drawing board for 2013, as the industry waits to see if the PTC is extended.

Dilts is aware of this and hopes efforts here are not derailed just as they are beginning.

“It is in the early stages,” he said of trying to bring wind energy manufacturing jobs to Galesburg. “But we’re past the planning stages and picking up the phone and having conversations.”


 

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