American wind power's rapid recovery

17 October 2013 by David Ward David Ward
These days it’s hard to imagine that Congress ever agreed on anything. But we need only to look back at the early days of this year for an example of when Democrats and Republicans agreed on something.

Back in January, as part of the last minute deal to address the Fiscal Cliff, Congress decided that extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) was simply too important for the American economy. Congress wanted to keep the success story that is American wind power going.

After all, last year wind power attracted $25 billion in private investment into our national economy, now supports 80,000 well-paying jobs, and relies on a brand new manufacturing sector to make more than 70 percent of its content.

While the PTC extension was good news, the delay leading up to its extension was not.  It resulted in a sharp decline in turbine and equipment orders, layoffs and job losses, factories closing and a near halt to the industry’s progress during late 2012--all impacts predicted by AWEA at the beginning of that year. It has also meant a very slow first half of 2013.

But now the rapid recovery of American wind power is underway. And it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Recently, Arkansas Business reported that LM Wind Power had decided to add more than 850 jobs at its Little Rock plant due to “increased volumes from major customers.” LM added that it had doubled its American workforce since March.

In another report by Windpower Monthly, Broadwind Energy said it had secured an order for towers for wind turbines worth $106 million. That deal means new activity for Broadwind’s U.S. facilities from Wisconsin to Texas. Since the start of 2013, Broadwind has recorded tower orders worth $306 million.

In late September, the Pueblo Chieftain reported Vestas announced “its biggest order in three years.” Vestas reported Duke Energy Renewables placed a 400-megawatt order capable of providing enough power for more than 180,000 homes.

This sequence of developments, coming within the space of a few weeks, makes it pretty clear--when wind power grows, our economy grows. Wind power’s success is America’s success.

This is all good news for ratepayers, because adding more wind power helps lower the costs for ratepayers since it displaces the most expensive and dirty energy options. In fact, the Boston Globe reported in late September that wind power is “now competitive with conventional sources.”

Let’s not forget that wind power is a 100% clean electricity source, one that saved 30 billion gallons of fresh water in 2012 since it uses virtually no water, and one that displaces 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually--equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road.

Extending the PTC was clearly the right choice by Democrats and Republicans at the start of 2013. If they want to get back on the good side of millions of Americans (71 percent of whom support wind power’s growth, according to Gallup), they should consider focusing their attention on providing wind power with the long-term, stable tax policy that its competitors receive.

Photo credit: First Wind

Related articles:

Wind turbine blade maker adding 850 jobs in U.S., October 7, 2013
WSJ's six myths about renewables: More good news, September 26, 2013
Southeast wind conference resides at hub of emerging regional market, September 4, 2013
Across country, editorials spread good news on wind power, August 26, 2013
AWEA Summit spotlights Ohio as potential driver of industry growth, August 22, 2013
Opinion: In Colorado, wind power stats will blow you away, August 7, 2013
Washington Gov. Inslee, First Wind, Avista celebrate Palouse Wind Project milestone, July 9, 2013
President's speech highlights wind power's benefits for both 'red' and 'blue' states, July 5, 2013
Wind farm brings windfall for Western Mass. town, July 1, 2013
Opinion: Maine wind projects having positive impact, May 29, 2013
Ventower doubling workforce, order books full, May 28, 2013
Mid-American Energy announces $1.9-billion investment in additional wind generation capacity, May 8, 2013
WINDPOWER 2013 Update: Google powering ahead with renewable energy, May 8, 2013
South Dakota legislation provides economic development opportunities, April 18, 2013
Opinion: For hard-hit counties, wind farms are worth it, April 15, 2013
Pew: U.S. clean-energy surplus with China attributable to policy, March 14, 2013
Fact check: Attack on Navigant jobs study lacks substance, March 7, 2013
Congress extends wind energy tax credits for projects that start in 2013, January 2, 2013