The once bright future of wind energy is looking a bit dimmer these days. The recent announcement that “Siemens Energy” plans to lay off more than 600 workers in three states, including a plant in Iowa, not only affects current jobs, but may also impact those looking to enter the wind energy field. Since he was a Freshman in high school, Adam Kadner knew he wanted to study a career in wind energy.
The wind power industry boasts enviable political assets in its fight to preserve a prized tax benefit. Republican and Democratic governors trumpet the benefits of wind energy; industry officials can identify manufacturing jobs at risk in crucial presidential election swing states if the tax credit expires; and a phalanx of lobbyists and consultants are working to ensure it stays in place for at least one more year. But now an unusual coalition is fighting the extension, including tea party followers, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the electric utility most closely associated with President Obama. The result is an unpredictable and intense lobbying fight.
A Republican member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is floating a plan to quell debate surrounding the fate of the wind production tax credit slated to expire at the end of the year. Commissioner Philip Moeller said wind generators and other power plants could receive tax credits when demand for electricity soars, which would allow Congress to continue providing incentives for the industry while addressing critics’ claims that the credits are too broadly distributed.
President Obama will make the final call on whether a Chinese-owned company can build wind farms in the United States near a Navy installation in Oregon, a government lawyer told a federal judge yesterday. Joel McElvain, a lawyer for the Justice Department, made the comments to Judge Amy Berman Jackson at the U.S. District Court hearing on Ralls Corp.’s lawsuit to block the United States’ rejection of the wind farm project.
New layoffs at Siemens AG’s DE +0.30% wind-power factories in the U.S. mark the latest retrenchment in the wind industry caused in part by the looming expiration of a federal tax credit.
Siemens, a global leader in wind-turbine manufacturing, said Tuesday it would eliminate more than 600 positions, or about 37% of its U.S. wind-turbine-manufacturing jobs. The cuts include 407 jobs at its Fort Madison, Iowa, blade factory and 146 at a factory in Hutchinson, Kan., that makes nacelles, or housing, for the turbines’ generators and gears. Additionally, Siemens said 330 temporary positions added to help with busy times earlier won’t be renewed.
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said, “The only thing that I have been successful on is, we do have a tax bill, out of the Finance Committee, and I do have the extension to the wind energy tax credit in it.” But Senator Grassley does not expect the package, containing extensions to 50-60 other credits, to go before the House before Congress recesses.
Siemens AG (SIE) will eliminate 615 jobs at U.S. factories producing windmills in response to declining orders, dealing a blow to Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher’s push into environmentally friendly energy sources. “The industry is facing a significant drop in new orders, and this has an unfortunate consequence on employment in this segment of the power industry,” Munich-based Siemens said today in a message to employees that was obtained by Bloomberg.
Last month, Gamesa, a major maker of wind turbines, completed the first significant order of its latest innovation: a camper-size box that can capture the energy of slow winds, potentially opening up new parts of the country to wind power. But by the time the last of the devices, worth more than $1.25 million, was hitched to a rail car, Gamesa had all but shut down its factory here and furloughed 92 of the workers who made them. “We are all really sad,” said Miguel Orobiyi, 34, who worked as a mechanical assembler at the Gamesa plant for nearly five years. “I hope they call us back because they are really, really good jobs.”
At least moderate levels of drought affect 64 percent of the contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which compiles data from federal and academic scientists. “This is the greatest extent of drought we’ve seen all summer,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “The drought is easing in the East, but we’re seeing more of it expand in the central Plains, Rockies and Dakotas.”
While many members of the U.S. House of Representatives are doing everything in their power to prevent the further development of clean energy, others are still fighting hard to ensure wind and solar have a place in the country’s future. As the House Energy and Commerce Committee pushed through the “No More Solyndras Act” – legislation that would terminate the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan-guarantee program – some members of the House slammed their colleagues for what many consider to be a symbolic attack on clean energy.