Wind power represents one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors in the U.S., and now employs more than 75,000 people nationwide. But a federal tax incentive that benefits the wind industry is set to expire, leading advocates to urge its extension.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said that letting it expire would amount to a large tax increase for wind energy. AWEA said that thousands of jobs and the future growth of the sector are in danger. The association said that this isn't anecdotal, pointing to past tax increases that resulted in a loss of jobs and manufacturing activity. AWEA Spokesman Peter Kelley said that now is just not a good time to put wind energy at risk.
"Pennsylvania is in the top third for total wind capacity now," he said. "There is currently online 750 megawatts. That's 180,000 Pennsylvania homes powered by wind. That could more than quadruple if we're able to keep this policy environment stable."
The wind power sector currently employs between 3,000 and 4,000 people in Pennsylvania. Kelley said that there is wide bi-partisan support for the sector, but they are still fighting what he said are outdated misconceptions about wind energy.
"One thing you hear is it's too expensive and unreliable, and the fact is it's now way cheaper than it's ever been, it's cost-competitive with all other forms of energy, and it increases the reliability of the grid," he said.
If the tax incentive expires, it will effectively end at the end of 2012, which means any wind project that wanted to take advantage would have to get underway now. AWEA has launched a new website, which urges the public to take action to save the wind energy sector. Kelley said that the hope is that Congress will take action before they leave for Christmas break.