Wind turbines: S.D. blade manufacturer sees success imperiled by delay in extending PTC

A new wind turbine rotor blade factory in Aberdeen, S.D., has helped keep that city’s economy strong, but its success to date is threatened by impending expiration of the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), according to Richard Morrison, CEO and president of Molded Fiber Glass Cos. (MFG).

At a meeting of the Aberdeen Development Corp. (ADC) yesterday, Morrison said the blade plant employs 400 and has an annual payroll of $16 million, according to the Aberdeen American News, and has manufactured blades for wind farms in 16 states and two countries.

ADC spokesman Jim Barringer underscored the degree to which the city has been able to prosper despite the national economic headwinds, and credited the MFG factory with helping keep local unemployment low.  For 2008-2011, he said, Aberdeen was the only city in South Dakota to realize a net gain in jobs.

However, Morrison noted, industry analysts believe that installations of new wind farms could drop by 80 percent if the PTC is not renewed.

South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R) recently spearheaded a letter from 18 House of Representatives freshmen, including 16 Republicans, to House leadership asking for prompt consideration of a PTC extension.

The PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale turbines. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it first. A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the Production Tax Credit will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration would kill 37,000 jobs within a year.

A House bill seeking to extend the PTC has 105 cosponsors, including 24 Republicans, while a similar Senate bill is cosponsored by seven Senators, including three Republicans.  PTC extension efforts have received the endorsement of a broad coalition of more than 370 members, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Western Governors’ Association. A PTC extension also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, and the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes 23 Republican and Democratic Governors from across the U.S.  A PTC extension has been endorsed by a number of newspapers across the country, including the Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, the Denver Post, the Daily Oklahoman, and the Toledo Blade.

Tom Gray,