One of the bright lights in our country’s economic recovery has been the growth and success of American clean energy industries such as solar and wind power. The U.S. wind industry currently supports 75,000 U.S. jobs across all 50 states, and is on track to produce 20 percent of our nation’s electricity by 2030.
During the last decade, Maine’s wind power sector has created thousands of jobs, with more than $1 billion of investment in the state. According to the American Wind Energy Association, in 2010 Maine’s wind industry boosted the state’s economy with nearly $6 million in annual property tax payments by wind project owners, and $1.2 million in annual land lease payments.
In addition, hundreds of jobs have been created and the economic effect extends to every county in the state. Maine is New England’s leading land-based wind producer and experts predict that we are poised to become one of the nation’s offshore wind leaders in the coming years. Ongoing research and development work at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is paving the way.
A good recent example of Maine clean energy industry adding to local and state economies is the $76 million Bull Hill Wind Project in Hancock County, which will generate 34 megawatts of fossil-free power, or enough electricity for 18,000 homes. Right now, 100 people are working at the site. After completion, the project will generate more than $100,000 annually in tax revenue for Hancock County, and $20,000 per year to the community of Eastbrook.
These impressive and much-needed economic benefits, however, are being threatened by an effort to eliminate the federal Production Tax Credit which helps level the energy playing field and provides the certainty that clean energy industries need for continued growth.
Unless Congress takes action now, the credit is set to expire at the end of this year. Already, the failure of Congress to renew the credit is shutting off new orders for wind turbines, which means layoffs start now. If the credit is allowed to expire, approximately half of all existing U.S. wind jobs are expected to be lost before the end of the year. The results, in plain English, are that more people will be out of work, and less clean energy for our children’s future.
Maine’s congressional delegation should demonstrate their support for our clean energy economy by publicly and actively supporting the Production Tax Credit. Senators Snowe and Collins can do their part by co-sponsoring Sen. Grassley’s bill to renew the PTC (S. 2201). It’s important for both Maine’s economy and environment.
Jackson Parker is president and CEO of construction company Reed & Reed Inc., based in Woolwich. Glen Brand is the director of the environmental organization Sierra Club Maine.