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Jobs and Tax Revenue will Sustain 'Death Blow' if PTC Expires, Says NRDC

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September 11, 2012

Jobs and Tax Revenue will Sustain 'Death Blow' if PTC Expires, Says NRDC

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor


Each major wind farm in America creates 1,079 jobs and can add tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue and other benefits to the community in which it is located, according to two new reports from the Washington, D.C.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national not-for-profit environmental organization.

Yet the industry’s growth and promise will be greatly stunted, the Council says, if Congress does not renewed the 2.2-cent per kilowatt hour (kWh) Production Tax Credit (PTC) that’s set to expire at the end of the year. The Senate is expected to take up the PTC this week.

Today, U.S. wind farms generate about 50,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy – the equivalent of the energy produced by 12 Hoover Dams – and the wind industry employs about 75,000 Americans. Wind energy production has increased by more than 170 percent in the past four years alone.

A new 250-megawatt wind farm will create 1,079 jobs in manufacturing, construction engineering and management, according to the NRDC report “American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production.”  

But the benefits don’t end there, a separate NRDC study on the secondary impacts of the wind energy industry shows.

Said NRDC policy advocate Cai Steger, co-author of the report: “Every time a wind farm gets built, America jobs are created. These reports show what the PTC has done for the wind industry – and why it’s essential that it is extended.”

Wind farms also are helping to revitalize communities across the country by generating new taxes, lease payments to landowners  and economic development revenues, finds the NRDC report “At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies.” 

The report profiles four communities from Ohio to Oregon that have benefited from the wind industry.

For example, Sherman County, a rural region in northern Oregon, got its first wind farm in 2002. Over the last decade, 11 more wind farms have been built, bringing the county a host of welcome economic and social changes. With a population of 1,735, Sherman County used to be dependent on one crop – wheat.

However, its breezy conditions and proximity to power transmission lines connecting to California have made the region an ideal location for a second crop – wind energy.

Benefits that Sherman County has realized from its wind farms:

  • $17.5 million in property taxes and fees
  • Annual payments of up to $7,800 per turbine to landowners
  • Per capita income increases, from $18,354 in 2001 to $52,530 in 2011, to become the highest in the state
  • $1.8 million grant to school district in 2011 to fund new equipment, classes and teachers
  • 500 onsite construction jobs
  • 80 long-term jobs in operation
  • Increased economic activity, which helps keep small businesses alive
  • Annual check of $590 to all residents
  • Renewable energy technician training program at Columbia Gorge Community College

“When I was young, they used to have a machine at the fair. It had a big flywheel you’d turn by hand, and you gave the guy a quarter,” said John Hilderbrand, wind and wheat farmer, Sherman County, Oregon. “Then you put a penny in it, and it smashed that penny out. I look out there and I see those wind turbine blades turning and I think of that big wheel. Every time it goes around, it just chunks out a coin.”

Said Colorado Senator Michael Bennet (D), leading efforts in the Senate to extend the PTC: "The case is clear.  The wind energy industry supports jobs and drives economic development.  It’s time for Congress to make extending the bipartisan wind PTC a top priority.

“In Colorado and across the country, workers are already paying the price for Congressional inaction on the PTC,” Bennet remarked. “Those jobs losses are only a glimpse of what could happen if we let the tax credit expire.”

“Ohio and the United States are poised to lead the world in wind turbine manufacturing and use, Brown said. “We can't trade a dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign-made clean energy components, which is why supporting American manufacturers of wind turbines and parts is more important than ever."

According to the NRDC supply chain report, the 1,079 jobs created by a typical 250 MW wind farm are created at 14 different steps along the way of building the wind farm. Non-construction businesses account for an estimated 557 jobs. They include 432 workers in manufacturing, 80 in planning and development, 18 in sales and distribution and 27 in operations and maintenance.

Construction jobs add another 522 jobs to a typical wind farm. 

These workers are spread among three categories, with 273 working on on-site civil works, such as roads, and foundations; 202 working on the installation of the wind turbines and 47 working on on-site electrical work, such as grid connection.

Additionally, the reports profile American companies that could participate at every one of the 14 steps of a wind farm.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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