Martha Wyrsch, president of Vestas-American Wind Technology, Inc., gave testimony to the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources and Infrastructure to urge an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2012.
“An extension of the PTC is necessary for the continued employment of the 80,000 people working in the U.S. wind industry,” says Wyrsch, who leads the North American arm of Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s leading provider of wind turbines. “Wind energy has grown dramatically in the past several years, creating a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S., and the PTC has been a significant driver in that growth. The jobs at stake, which include 20,000 people in the U.S. wind industry’s manufacturing sector and technical jobs throughout rural America, are skilled-labor positions with competitive wages and medical and retirement benefits.”
Wyrsch said if the PTC is not extended, hundreds of U.S. wind-industry suppliers employing thousands of people also would be affected.
Wyrsch addressed the bipartisan Senate subcommittee comprised of 13 senators, chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico).
The PTC, a credit of 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, is given to an owner of a wind-energy project once a wind turbine begins to produce electricity. Since 1999, the PTC has received short-term extensions seven times, and has lapsed three times.
With the PTC in place, the U.S. wind energy industry has achieved impressive economic numbers, according to the American Wind Energy Association:
• More than 400 facilities across 43 states manufacture for the wind-power industry
• 60% of a wind turbine’s value is now produced here in America, compared to 25% prior to 2005
• A 90% drop in the price of wind power since 1980, benefiting utilities and consumers
• More than $60 billion invested since 2005
In the past, the wind industry has experienced a boom-and-bust development cycle, with significant drops in installations in years following PTC expiration. Each of these drops has had an impact on employment and capital investment.
“The development cycle for wind power begins more than a year in advance of operation,” Wyrsch said. “Many of our customers have already announced they will not place orders for any new turbines until the PTC is extended. The industry needs predictable, long-term tax and energy policies to ensure continued investment.”
Navigant Consulting, a respected non-partisan consulting firm, reported on Dec. 12, 2011, that 37,000 American jobs could be lost if the PTC is not extended.