Election Brings Renewed Hope for Wind Energy

From EV Wind

A breeze may be slowly stirring again for the wind energy industry after months of sitting becalmed.

The election results have picked up the hopes of proponents of wind energy for some kind of renewal of the most important subsidy for wind power, the production tax credit.

The tax credit expires Jan. 1 and the American Wind Energy Association has warned that the loss will lead to 37,000 layoffs as demand for new wind turbines and wind farms drops sharply.

Throughout the year, the U.S. House of Representatives, dominated by conservative Republicans, opposed reviving the production tax credit. U.S. Reps Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, have been out front in their opposition, saying that the tax credits distort the free market.

The tax credit is worth 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour for wind power utilities.

In 2012, wind farm developers redoubled construction to beat the deadline, saving little for next year. In September, Siemens Wind Energy announced that it would cut 110 temporary contract workers at its Hutchinson turbine plant immediately and lay off 146 regular employees in two months. The employees are scheduled for their last day on Monday, dropping employment from more than 400 this summer to about 150.

Siemens did announce this week that it has won contracts for turbines destined for southern California and Chile that would keep the remaining workers employed.

But with the election, the political mood may be shifting enough to allow some kind of short-term production tax credit extension before the end of the year, say industry officials.

Democratic President Barack Obama, who strongly backs alternative energy was re-elected. Republican candidate Mitt Romney was far less committed to it. And Democrats added a few seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The production tax credit has bipartisan support. For instance, Kansas’ two senators, both Republican, support its extension.

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