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Wind energy: Boom sputters as industry tax credit is set to expire

Congress has so far not extended the tax credit for wind energy, resulting in the layoffs of thousands of workers. Communities that a few years ago were elated to attract a promising new industry are left wondering what will the future bring.

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The sun rises behind windmills at a wind farm in Palm Springs, California in 2011.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

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Alex Derr had a new house and a son on the way when he landed a coveted job building massive fiberglass wind-turbine blades at a new factory in Fort Madison, Iowa. With well-paid work in a growing industry, he seemed to have it made.

“Having a new family, I thought it was great,” says Mr. Derr, who is in his 20s. “I thought I was getting hired for a career.”

But his career in the wind industry came to an abrupt and premature end in October, when the plant where he worked, owned by Siemens Energy, a German company, let go most of its more than 700 workers. Similar layoffs have affected thousands of workers in communities across the United States. The reason: the impending expiration of a federal tax credit for wind energy.

 

Despite pleas from wind-industry advocates and politicians in important wind-energy states, Congress has so far not extended the tax credit beyond the end of the year. So on the eve of its demise, workers who thought they had snagged a dream job now find themselves once again looking for employment. Communities that a few years ago were elated to attract a promising new industry are left wondering what will the future bring.

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