Wind power contributes to improving manufacturing jobs picture

Is this the light at the end of the tunnel that the American economy has been searching for? On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5%, its lowest level in nearly three years. The most promising job growth sectors in the report included transportation, warehousing and manufacturing.

The manufacturing bright spot is also reflected in a recent report from the Institute for Supply Management that found the highest reports of net hiring in the American manufacturing sector in six months. As the New York Times recently noted, this comes as a surprise to many since “until last year, there had not been a single year when [American] manufacturing employment rose since 1997.”

Where are these good, old-fashioned American manufacturing jobs coming from? In part, they are coming from wind power.

While the wind turbines industry can’t single-handedly save all U.S. manufacturing, we are bringing an entirely new manufacturing base to the U.S. and creating one of America’s fastest growing manufacturing sectors. With most activity happening since 2005, the wind energy industry now has 400+ manufacturing facilities in the U.S. with 20,000 American manufacturing jobs across our supply chain.

Remarkably in an age of job outsourcing, wind turbines is actually “insourcing” a whole new manufacturing sector. Sixty percent of a wind turbine’s value is now produced here in America, compared to 25 percent prior to 2005.

Why is wind turbines manufacturing growing in the U.S.? It’s simple economics. As Steve Lockard of wind turbine rotor blade maker TPI Composites recently wrote on the Fox News website, “This is because wind energy is different. Our components are so large – some wind turbine blades are approaching half the length of a football field – that it becomes much cheaper to build them close to where they will be deployed in a wind farm. That means factories in the windy heartland, states like Illinois, Ohio, Kansas and Iowa.”

And wind turbines manufacturing can keep growing, if Congress keeps taxes stable and low on this promising new source of clean energy and American jobs. A recently released study from Navigant Consulting found that with stable tax policy the wind energy industry can grow to nearly 100,000 American jobs in the next four years, including growing the wind manufacturing sector by one third to 46,000 American manufacturing jobs. This will keep wind power on track toward supporting the 500,000 jobs by 2030 envisioned in a report by the U.S. Department of Energy during the George W. Bush administration.

Unfortunately, this enormous progress is threatened today, with wind’s key Production Tax Credit incentive expiring at the end of 2012. Congress must extend this incentive soon so that U.S. windpower can continue to flourish and create new American manufacturing jobs. Otherwise, that hopeful light at the end of the economic tunnel may be an oncoming train.

By Jon Goldstein, American Wind Energy Association Director of Public Affairs,