Sweetwater fights to extend wind energy tax cuts

Within the last decade wind turbines have sprung up through most of the wide stretches of landscape in our area.Government tax credits and subsidies, have largely contributed to this new age renewable energy boom, however an expiration for a certain tax credit could abruptly end the latest surge.The wind energy impact on the Big Country is evident."Truck drivers, welders, steel workers... people all across Texas in particular," explained Sweetwater Mayor and Executive Director of the Texas Wind Energy Clearing House, Greg Wortham.Wind turbine production takes place all over the state. Most facilities have strong orders for 2012 because of the production tax credit and the stimulus package. "There are some major factories in this region that you can go in to and they're just bustling, brimming with people," Wortham said.According to Wortham though, 2013 and beyond have really thin orders because of financial uncertainty."That's purely driven by this law."Congress agreed to discuss tax credits in the first quarter of 2012. Wind energy support groups are asking representatives for an extension to the production tax credit, which aids projects like the production of wind turbines."It's about looking to your congressman are they voting for this extension to support those jobs," said Wortham.Whether they're tasked with making a blade, a tower or one of the other 8,000 parts that make up a wind turbine, there are hundreds of businesses, even thousands of jobs, some of which in the Big Country, that people are now forced to fight for."It's not Abilene's fault if someone loses a wind job or a manufacturing job, it's Washington's fault."Driving through Sweetwater, you quickly realize just how many businesses, are in the business of wind energy."They came here for wind. It's all throughout the community what the impacts are."If the production tax credit expires however, the impact might be felt in more places than just Sweetwater."If you don't have a wind project, you don't need blades from Gainesville, Texas or El Paso, Wortham said. "You don't need towers from Abilene or San Angelo.... or Longview, Shreveport or Fort Worth."People like Wortham see wind energy as a positive impact on communities like Sweetwater. Wind energy has given Nolan County the ability to add schools solely off of wind energy money.In their eyes, they're fighting to get their representatives like Senator John Cornyn, who's been to Sweetwater in support of turbine production, but yet still voted no when it counts."When I come back next year, there'll be tumbleweeds in here," mocked Wortham about what Senator Cornyn is doing. "'Remember, I voted against you.' They don't say that, but they're doing that."Now Wortham is asking for your help.