Wind Production Tax Credit Needs Extension Now
If left to expire at the end of this year, the federal tax credit for production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines could cause a growing industry in the Midwest to come to a screeching halt. In Minnesota this would mean stalled growth in manufacturing and turbine construction jobs, a shrinking market for a growing number of graduates with degrees and certificates in wind-related fields, and a loss of economic opportunity for rural communities.
Examples in small towns throughout the Midwest illustrate what a growing and innovative industry like wind energy can mean for both communities and for newly trained, highly skilled workers ready to build, erect and maintain wind turbines. A community college in Iowa that offers degrees and certificates for turbine manufacturers and installers gets almost weekly inquiries from employers in the field. At least two community colleges in Minnesota offer similar programs. A small town in Nebraska got a much needed economic boost from the new jobs and lease payments that an 81-turbine wind farm provided. And rural communities throughout southwest Minnesota are reaping the economic benefits of hosting utility-scale wind farms.
But growth in the industry, as with any industry, relies on stability and consistency, and the federal government is currently sending mixed signals. Leaders in Washington on both sides of the aisle have supported using “all of the above” options when it comes to U.S. energy policy, and numerous federal agencies, the Obama administration and several Great Lakes states (including Minnesota) have joined an agreement to expedite of wind energy development in the Great Lakes. But by stalling on the approval of the wind production tax credit, the federal government is creating uncertainty where wind developers and investors feel it most: Cost.
In addition, passing short-term tax credits or stalling on credit decisions cause boom-bust reactions within the industry, as developers rush to finish projects before the credit expires or wait to move forward on projects until a decision is made. This instability in the industry causes instability in job growth, employment prospects for students and long-term economic development in rural communities.
The federal government needs to pass the wind production tax credit now so Minnesota and the entire Midwest region can move forward confidently and consistently with an innovative, job creating and community building wind industry.