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By lowering the cost of operating new turbines, the PTC has led to a major boost in the wind industry and therefore economy. The Department of Energy (DOE) reported that wind power now accounts for over 10 percent of six states' electricity supply and current wind power capacity is enough to power 13 million American homes at 50,000 megawatts. This growth has contributed to increased investment, with the DOE reporting $14 billion invested in wind energy projects in 2011 alone. Because American manufacturers provide 70 percent of wind energy equipment, the wind industry contributes to a healthier national economy as a whole.
Without the PTC, however, many power companies will not be able to afford continued operation of wind turbines. The DOE report estimated that around half of the Americans working in the wind industry will lose their jobs without a PTC extension because of shut down plants. Many layoffs have already occurred in the past year in anticipation of the PTC's potential expiration. According to the Minnesota Public Radio , many analysts predicted earlier this year that losses would amount to 30 percent of total wind manufacturing jobs by this time.
These numbers echo those of previous years before Congress let the PTC expire, a decision which ultimately had dire consequences. According to the AWEA, when this happened in 2000, 2002 and 2004, the following years saw drops in wind capacity installations by 93 percent, 73 percent and 77 percent, respectively. This major industry dependence on the PTC demonstrates just how important another extension is in order to keep wind energy growth from once again becoming stagnant.
Compared to other industries such as oil and natural gas, the government is subsidizing less money for the wind industry through the PTC and can thus afford an extension for a much more environmentally-friendly energy source. As clean energy becomes increasingly important with population growth and decreasing resources, it is critical that the government takes measures to boost the growth of these alternatives. Given that wind is currently the biggest clean energy source, extending the PTC will provide a large step in the right direction.
Urvi Banerjee. More »