Iowa Leaders Call for Wind Energy Tax Credit Extension

By James Q. Lynch and Rod Boshart, Reporters

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By KCRG Intern

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Terry Branstad led a bipartisan call for Congress to approve a multi-year extension of the renewable energy production tax credit they called critical to the wind energy industry.

The lame duck Congress “needs to pass at least the one-year extension,” Grassley said at a Washington press conference.

Uncertainty about the tax credit is hurting wind energy production and local communities where wind energy related manufacturers are laying off workers, Branstad added.

“Thousands of jobs in the wind industry have already been impacted by the credit’s looming expiration and thousands more are at risk,” Branstad and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber wrote to congressional leaders. “We urge you to take swift action to extend the (production tax credit) before the end of this congressional session.”

Without an extension, it is estimated that the U.S. economy will lose 37,000 wind industry jobs and the opportunity to leverage over $10 billion of private investment, they said.

In Iowa, Clipper Windpower in Cedar Rapids has laid off about 100 employees and Siemens in Fort Madison has announced the layoffs of about 400, Branstad said.

The industry needs about five years to mature, Grassley said, adding that “it would be a mistake to throw away that investment” at a time when wind energy can help meet energy needs, create jobs and reduce pollution.

The extension rests in part on the ongoing discussions between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner, Grassley said.

Wind power manufacturers and suppliers say they appreciate the support of lawmakers who are pushing for a vote on the tax credit extension. But one manager of a manufacturing facility said a one year extension wouldn't help much.

Joe Baker, CEO of Acciona Windpower North America, said a four or five year deal that includes a declining credit amount each year would do more for plants like the one Acciona operates in West Branch

"If we get a one year deal, what's going to happen is everybody will race again to try to get projects in the ground. We'll benefit from market opportunities and then we'll be in the same place this time next year," Baker said.

Baker said the lead time for larger wind farms is several years with the need to survey sites, measure the wind and order all the equipment.

Another company in Cedar Rapids closely watching the political winds on the tax credit extension is Van Meter, Inc. Todd Ettleman, a regional Vice President, said the electrial supplier has lost at least five percent of sales this year strictly due to the cutback by wind power manufacturers.

Ettleman is hopeful, though, that both sides are ready to deal.

"The hope is if they're both in favor, there'll be some kind of compromise to keep this thing running because it's important to the economy, important to the environment and it's the right thing to do," Ettleman said.

Baker also said there are some signs utilities are anticipating some movement on the tax credit. He said he's been contacted by five to ten customers who tell him they're ready to move on projects if a tax credit deal is approved.

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