Here in Illinois and across the country, wind energy jobs are growing. Wind energy has installed more than a third of all new electric generation in this country in recent years and is powering one of America’s fastest growing manufacturing sectors. Over the last six years, U.S. domestic production of wind turbine components has grown 12-fold, to more than 400 facilities in 43 states. And with stable tax policy wind power is poised to grow to almost 100,000 jobs in just four years and stay on track toward supporting 500,000 jobs by 2030 according to forecasts by the George W. Bush administration.
A nonpartisan think tank recently found that the national clean economy employs over 2.7 million people, with over a quarter in manufacturing. A June 2011 analysis of the website LinkedIn – a major networking and business opportunity website – analyzed members who switched industries over the past five years. The “Renewable Energy and the Environment” category attracted more than all others, growing at an average of 56.8% annually from 2006 to 2010.
Here in Illinois, companies and investors have begun recognizing our wind energy potential. Illinois has more than 100 companies contributing to the wind energy supply chain, which together support 15,000 jobs in the state.
As the CEO of Winergy Drive Systems Corporation, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of wind turbine gearboxes, I’ve seen first-hand how companies in the clean energy supply chain can create jobs.
In 2001 –also a period of recession – we incorporated in Elgin, Ill., to make wind energy gearboxes. We went on to build a brand-new factory in 2009, and we now employ hundreds of people in the local community.
These are the kind of jobs our parents had – good, old-fashioned American jobs, cutting metal and assembling machinery.
All this activity has been driven by the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) – which has recently leveraged as much as $20 billion a year in private investment, and supported tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Thanks to the PTC, Illinois is not only creating wind energy jobs, it’s creating clean, in-state electricity. We’re now among the fastest-growing states for wind power, and last year we installed the most new wind turbines in America.
In these hard economic times, we’re creating jobs and delivering clean, affordable electricity. But we will lose all these consumer benefits and a brand new, growing manufacturing sector if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit to expire.
Extending the PTC is critical to provide what our economy desperately needs: certainty. Businesses are hesitant to invest, manufacturers are wary of setting up shop, companies are reluctant to hire, and banks don’t want to lend because they are unsure of how the playing field will look one, five, ten years from now. That’s as true in our industry as in any other.
I know that wind energy can create jobs in other Illinois communities like it has in Elgin. I urge our congressional leaders to join together to support the creation of wind energy jobs by extending the PTC now, before it’s too late.
We must not stand by and watch this new American manufacturing sector vanish, when it could continue to put more and more Americans to work.
Royer is CEO of Winergy Drive Systems Corporation, the leading drive technology manufacturer for wind turbines. They’re located in Elgin, IL.