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Wind energy industry breathes sigh of relief as tax credits are extended for a year

By Jenna Rogers, Reporter, jrogers@ktxs.com
Published On: Jan 04 2013 06:13:20 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 04 2013 06:22:01 PM CST
SWEETWATER, Texas -

The wind-energy industry spent the last several months wondering how Congress would vote on a decision that had a potentially devastating outcome.

That wait cost at least 1,000 people in the Big Country their jobs, according to Sweetwater Mayor and Wind Energy Expert Greg Wortham.

"It's been foolish to have to go through this every couple of years and really then to have to drag it out to beyond the last day," said Wortham. "Because real people lose real jobs and real people didn't have a fun Christmas when Congress had to break for the holidays."

Better late than never. The credit will mean big things for the local economy.

"It means more jobs... Any wind project of size is worth hundreds of millions of dollars so that's new tax pay to hospitals, counties and schools," said Wortham.

Congressman Randy Neugebauer voted against the legislation.

In a statement, he said, "The problem with repeated one-year extensions of the wind energy tax credit is that they don't give the industry any certainty."

He believes a more ideal solution would be to gradually phase out the credit altogether.

West Texas remains a world leader in wind energy, and the industry is hoping the credits will extend beyond the year.

"We shouldn't have had to make as strong an argument. It's like going to Washington and saying, 'Schools are good. Really? Do we have to tell you that? Let's get to work," said Wortham.

The extension of the credit will mean enough wind energy to power one million homes.

The Texas State Technical College wind energy program is looking for students to fill spots now that jobs will become more available.

The Director for Energy Systems at TSTC, Keith Plantier, is also still hoping for a more permanent solution to the tax credit issue that continues to come up and threaten industry jobs, as well as his program.

"It's enough to keep things afloat for now but we would like to have a long-term extension in place so there's some certainty," said Plantier.

The program has a cap of fifty students, and he's confident he could place every student in a position.