Fiscal cliff threatens jobs in NC wind industry

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The fiscal cliff threatens more jobs in the Charlotte area.

A special tax credit for renewable energy production will expire at the end of the year if lawmakers don't take action.

While North Carolina doesn't have large-scale wind farms like out west, it does have a thriving presence on the manufacturing scene supporting wind energy.

ABB in Huntersville makes cables that can transit power from wind farms.

Nucor, headquartered in Charlotte, makes steel parts used in wind turbines across the country.

PPG in Shelby makes fiberglass used to make windmill blades. Brian O'Hara, president of the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition, told Eyewitness News there are about 75,000 jobs in the wind industry across the U.S.

Two to three thousand of those jobs are in North Carolina. He said if lawmakers can't come to a compromise on the fiscal cliff and allow a renewable energy production tax credit and an investment tax credit to expire at the end of the yea, those jobs could be cut in half.

That's also troubling to Dr. Johan Enslin, the director of UNC-Charlotte's Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, which trains students for careers in energy.

Enslin said, "A number of these engineers will design power plants, including wind power plants, and they may have to look at other venues for their job opportunities."

Enslin said tax credits and incentives help make renewable energy more cost-effective.

O'Hara says losing them could hurt the economy and the environment.

"If we let this credit expire, if we let this industry slow down, there's a chance its going to take us longer to get there and it's going to take us longer to realize the benefits of his industry."

A spokesperson at PPG told us when the production tax credit expired in the past, wind energy installations dropped by as much as 93 percent.

He said future production of wind turbines has already been halted across the industry, which has impacted jobs at PPG.