'Fiscal cliff' legislation a win for wind energy in mid-Missouri

Thursday, January 3, 2013 | 6:01 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA— Jefferson City's ABB plant might get a boost in business and more jobs because of "fiscal cliff" legislation passed early this week. 

The budget legislation passed by Congress on Monday includes production and investment tax credits for wind energy. The credits offer refunds per kilowatt hour created to any wind farm investors for the next year. 

The ABB plant, located in the heart of Jefferson City, is the largest transformer distribution factory in the world. Although the company makes mostly oil-filled transformers for domestic use, 5 percent of the company's total production in 2011 were wind turbine transformers. 

ABB's business could benefit from increases in demand for wind energy because every wind turbine needs a transformer, said Gene Cobb, union president at ABB.

In the last months of 2012, Cobb said wind power production fell off because the wind tax credits were running out.

"Things got kind of slim, but I believe the people at ABB were hinting at the wind power credit coming back. I know they were hoping for it," he said.

During the decline in wind energy creation last year, ABB did not lay off any employees, but it could hire up to 12 new employees if demand for the transformers increases, Cobb said. 

A press release from the Missouri Sierra Club said the credits will help protect more than 1,000 jobs in Missouri. 

The tax credits offer incentive for developers to build more wind farms. As incentives rise and wind-energy production increases, more jobs are protected and created, John Hickey, chapter director of the Missouri Sierra Club said in a phone interview. There are potential jobs in production, transportation and maintenance of wind turbines, Hickey said.

"It has been difficult to win legislative battles in Washington as of late," Hickey said. "The Republican House has been so bad on environmental issues."

According to an August 2012 fact sheet from the American Wind Energy Association, Missouri currently produces 1.2 percent of its energy from wind farms, though it is ranked 13th in the U.S. for wind energy potential.

Hickey said Iowa provides more than 20 percent of its energy through wind power. 

"If Iowa can do 20 (percent), and at least a dozen states get at least 10 (percent) from wind, but yet we are in 13th and we are in 'nowheres-ville,'" Hickey said. "It is just pitiful."

The tax credits will create more manufacturing jobs and the opportunity for wind farms to displace current energy sources, Hickey said. "This is a big win."

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.

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