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WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 14, 2012, 08:39 AM

Tax credit loss makes North Dakota wind jobs uncertain

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The possible loss of a federal tax break for the wind energy industry has some North Dakota officials nervous about the future of 800 jobs in the state.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The possible loss of a federal tax break for the wind energy industry has some North Dakota officials nervous about the future of 800 jobs in the state.

A federal wind energy production tax credit, which is equal to 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, is scheduled to expire at year's end, and there are disagreements in Congress about whether it should be renewed. Without the credit, wind power becomes more expensive.

DMI Industries' parent company, Otter Tail Corp., of Fergus Falls, Minn., plans to sell DMI for $20 million. The company employs 216 people in West Fargo and makes wind towers. The company intends to lay off 167 workers in Tulsa, Okla., this November, The Forum reports (http://bit.ly/Sghul0).

In Grand Forks, 630 people work at LM Wind Power, a Denmark-based company that supplies components for wind turbines. The company did not respond to requests for comment, but Klaus Thiessen, president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., said the Grand Forks plant is productive.

LM Wind Power does business worldwide, which could help cushion against a U.S. downturn, Thiessen said.

"We take some comfort in that, as much as you can," Thiessen said.

The pace of wind energy development in western North Dakota has stalled in recent months. The state has almost 1,500 megawatts of wind energy generation capacity, and more than 5,000 additional megawatts have been proposed.

"It's slowed down out there," said Jerry Lein, an engineer for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which reviews site plans for wind energy projects. "The demand for electricity is down with the economy."

The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C., says uncertainty about renewal of the federal tax credit is already affecting wind energy developers.

"You're already feeling the effects in the supply chain," said Ellen Carey, an association spokeswoman.

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