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Saturday, October 23, 2010

That Darned Stimlus: Boon for South Dakota Wind Power

The stimulus is working. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act isn't just about creating immediate jobs, ending the recession, and restoring confidence... although South Dakota unemployment is sliding back down, the economy has grown every quarter since Q3 2009, and rural bankers' confidence in the economic outlook for the next six months has risen over 11 points since August. The stimulus is also about laying the groundwork for long-term jobs and economic growth.

Consider wind energy. Mitchell Technical Institute just announced their receipt of $1.17 million in federal money to buy into a wind turbine on the White Lake PrairieWinds site. The state also kicked in stimulus dollars in the form of bonds to the Mitchell School District, which oversees the technical school. MTI students will get to train on that turbine. Those students, including a cadre of Native American students mandated by the federal money, will come out of MTI better equipped to compete for jobs in the growing wind energy field.

The stimulus also kept a lot of American wind energy jobs alive by saving the renewable energy tax credit:

At a time when the Great Recession threatened some 40,000 American wind construction, manufacturing and other jobs, the 1603 tax credit program included in the Stimulus legislation passed by the Congress restarted stalled projects and preserved these jobs. This year, a study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that the 1603 tax credit supported shovel-ready projects and over 50,000 American jobs. The 1603 program led to a record-breaking year of 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind in 2009 [Mike McDowell, "Tax Credits for Renewable Resources Must Be Renewed," HeartlandCPD Blog, 2010.10.15].

Protecting those jobs doesn't just keep tens of thousands of workers buying groceries and paying the mortgage. Protecting those jobs keeps the momentum going in renewable energy. Without the stimulus, we would have fallen further behind China and other forward-looking countries in the race to get our economy oriented toward the energy of the future.

And about China: Republicans are trying to trick you into believing that the stimulus only boosted wind energy in China. Ha!
  • According to data from the International Trade Commission (ITC) China currently represents less than 5% of the imported value of turbine components for the U.S. market.
  • Today, only 3 out of 33,000 (0.009%) wind turbines installed across the U.S. were sourced from China while there are American wind turbine manufacturing facilities coming online including brand new facilities beginning operation is several states
  • U.S. International Trade Commission states: “Overall, imports peaked as a share of the market in 2006 and U.S. production in 2008 and 2009 was significantly higher than in 2005, indicating a growing role for domestic producers. If planned U.S. manufacturing plants come online in the next few years, U.S. production capacity will continue to expand” [McDowell, 2010.10.15].

Remember, if wind-energy jobs are going to China, you can't blame the stimulus. Blame Senator John Thune and Republican obstructionists.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped the American wind energy industry weather the economic storm. It is laying the groundwork for students like thoe at Mitchell Tech to get the skills they need to compete in the new-energy economy that's only going to grow in the next five, ten, twenty years.

The ARRA stimulus has helped the recovery. But we're going to be seeing the Reinvestment portion of that legislation working through our economy for much longer.
Update 2010.10.24 09:33 CDT: More forward-looking stimulus investment helping South Dakota: Governor M. Michael Rounds cheers another $3.8 million in ARRA money to support a broadband mapping project that will gather data vital to improving South Dakota's information technology infrastructure.


  1. I cringe when I say this, but South Dakota needs a strong federal push to upgrade the transmission lines to carry wind energy to the east coast markets.

  2. What's the answer, Thad? Clearly a regional concern. Moving power while moving people. Mag-lev?

  3. Cringe?!
    Get over it.
    Move on.
    Moving electrical power's always been a federal-regional issue. Heard of Pick-Sloan? TVA? Bonneville Power? REA?
    Forty percent of the nation's coal comes from the Powder River Basin.
    Does anyone think there's any chance SD would show leadership on transmission when SD's too busy handing out unneeded corporate welfare?
    States' relevance consistently waned for 235 years.
    Move on.


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