the (new) american worker

Wind Farms Not Hiring
February 8, 2010, 11:17 pm
Filed under: Wind | Tags: , , , ,

One of the focal points of this blog is examining the political promises of job creation through a new energy economy. Personally, I believe this is achievable, and I hope that political showboating doesn’t get in the way of a establishing a real revolution, both for sustainable energy and the American worker. Unfortunately, as this Seattle Times article suggests, there is always one problem: demand must exist for these energy solutions if there are to be jobs to create them.

Despite building more wind power than ever before in 2009 – enough to power 2.4 million homes, according to the Seattle Times – many wind farms report they are slowing or stopping production altogether because of light demand. Even wind-turbine heavyweight Vestas, a Danish maker, has stopped production at its first U.S. plant, opened in 2008. Other firms report they would like to take advantage of the tax credits offered as part of last year’s federal stimulus, but must wait until credit markets loosen and demand for wind power increases.

The article cites as one example Hexcel Corp, a Colorado-based manufacturer of wind turbine parts.

“Hexcel qualified for $8.1 million in tax credits, but it’s unlikely the company will complete more of its facility or take the rest of the credits this year. It might use them in 2011 or 2012, however, depending on demand, Bacal said. When fully operational, the plant will hire about 80 to 90 people.” (emphasis mine)

We know that the limp economy does not make for the best conditions to kickstart new energy projects. Yet, the wind industry also claims that until the Obama administration forms a clear, reliable plan for mainstream incorporation of renewable energies, investors will continue to hesitate on wind.

These sorts of projects need years of planning and support – if the Obama administration is serious about renewable energy – and the president’s recent forays into nuclear and clean coal suggests he may not be – then incentives for investors and users – not just producers – must be created now.

Lastly, training and investment in human capital must also increase. Almost half of all wind turbines installed in the U.S. last year were made overseas. Competitive advantage must be established in some capacity here in America if the president is serious about getting Americans back to work building energy infrastructure. Otherwise, we will continue to lose growth opportunities overseas to countries that have already long made these human and technological investments.

–Mia Lamar