The environmental and economic benefits of wind power are well established. It is a homegrown source of electricity. Along with other forms of renewable energy, it can help us make the transition over coming decades to new, less-polluting ways to power the state and the country.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation in the number of jobs related to the wind industry, according to a recent report by the American Wind Energy Association. Last year, investments at two wind farms in northwest Ohio — the Blue Creek Wind Farm and the Timber Road II Wind Farm — totaled $775 million.
Ohio’s wind-energy industry has boomed over the past decade, becoming a model for the rest of the country. But that growth — and the jobs it has created — may come to a dead stop at the end of the year, if Congress fails to extend a tax credit the wind industry needs to stay competitive.
Turning our backs on domestic wind power would be wrong. Doing so would all but guarantee more pollution and the destruction of good, high-paying jobs in Ohio and across the country.
The economic benefits from the Blue Creek farm in Paulding County are evident. Landowners collect $1.1 million in annual lease payments. The farm has created more than 300 construction jobs and as many as 20 permanent jobs. These figures do not include the manufacturing jobs created in Ohio and elsewhere to build the components the farm uses.
Supporting wind power makes sense. It is increasingly cost-competitive with other forms of energy. It generates taxes for local governments and lease payments for farmers. Most important, it creates high-quality construction and manufacturing jobs at a time when tens of millions of Americans are out of work.
The federal production-tax credit for the wind industry — and for other clean-energy sectors such as solar power — rewards companies for the power they generate. This credit is vital to sustaining and creating good jobs, as well as reducing harmful carbon emissions. But the credit will expire in December, unless Congress passes a proposed four-year extension.
A recent study by the wind industry’s trade group estimates that domestic wind power is supporting 78,000 jobs this year. But the report warns that number could fall to 41,000 jobs in 2013 without an extension of the tax credit.
Not just wind farms create jobs in the industry. In recent years, manufacturers of many of the 8,000 component parts of a wind turbine have emerged in the United States.
More than 50 facilities that make components for the wind industry are in Ohio, several of them in Lucas, Williams, and Henry counties. Owens Corning in Toledo produces materials for wind-turbine blades, including glass-reinforcing materials and composites that are in almost half of all turbines.
Domestic manufacturers produce 60 percent of the content of wind turbines running in this country. American workers around the country make housing for the gearboxes, generators, transformers, and wiring in huge turbines.
To sustain job growth in the industry, we need to keep smart policies such as the production tax credit. Wind companies are telling Congress they cannot remain competitive without a few more years of government support.
We join their call for an extension of the production tax credit, so that we don’t lose ground in our efforts to combat global warming and revitalize the economy.
We also join the industry’s call for the sake of workers who don’t want to see their jobs destroyed.
By David Foster is president of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental groups.