Wind subsidy could preserve some North Dakota jobsA last-minute, one-year extension of a wind energy subsidy could save thousands of jobs nationwide, according to an industry group, but officials in North Dakota are waiting to see what its effect will be on jobs here.
By: By Christopher Bjorke, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
A last-minute, one-year extension of a wind energy subsidy could save thousands of jobs nationwide, according to an industry group, but officials in North Dakota are waiting to see what its effect will be on jobs here.
The tax deal passed in the House of Representatives this week to avert the “fiscal cliff” crisis included an extension of the production tax credit for wind energy projects started in 2013.
The deal will help support LM Wind Power’s wind blade factory in Grand Forks, but any new hiring will depend on how active its customers are in 2013, said Bill Burga Jr., head of manufacturing for North and South America for Denmark-based LM.
“While we’re all encouraged with this news, any new business will likely take many months to actually arrive,” Burga wrote in an email.
The wind industry had been bracing for the expected expiration of the credit after Dec. 31, which was cited by LM in its decision to cut 345 jobs in Grand Forks in September.
The American Wind Energy Association said the extension, which provides a 2.2-cent credit per kilowatt hour of renewable power, could save as many as 37,000 of the 75,000 wind industry jobs thought to be in the U.S.
“We’re still attempting to see what might come from this in the coming months,” said Burga, who is based in Grand Forks. “We’re certainly hopeful those customers that were ‘fence sitters’ might begin to offer up a renewed look this year.”
LM received a blade order in late 2012 that could prompt the company to hire 40 or more workers, but that number could also be much smaller depending on when the customer takes the blades.
The prospects for a closed component factory in West Fargo were uncertain to economic development officials there.
West Fargo’s former DMI Industries wind tower factory has been shuttered since DMI’s parent company, Otter Tail Corp., sold off the company to Texas-based Trinity Industries in September.
West Fargo Economic and Community Services Director Mark Vaux said he had not heard from Trinity on their plans for the factory.
“We’ve been trading phone calls with them to find out what their plans are,” Vaux said.
Trinity has a broad portfolio of businesses, including wind towers but the company has not told West Fargo leaders if it will use the DMI factor for wind components.
“They never indicated that that was part of their future plans,” Vaux said.
Calls to Trinity were not returned Thursday.
While LM is waiting for the wind industry’s response to the tax credit extension, the president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Develop Corp. said it would probably prevent further job losses at LM.
“It should stabilize their workforce,” said Klaus Thiessen of the EDC.
He said LM’s workforce stood at 230 workers in Grand Forks.