Late last month, on a Tehachapi mountainside with the wind blowing and windmills spinning, local wind energy leaders and I unveiled a legislative solution I authored in Congress -- the Wind Incentives for a New Decade (WIND) Energy Act of 2009.
Our country has the opportunity to move forward with solutions to increase production of all American energy resources as part of an all-of-the-above energy plan. The WIND Energy Act is a component of that strategy by extending the production tax credit over the next decade to create new jobs and power America with clean energy by making wind energy projects more affordable. Extending the production tax credit helps alleviate the problem of it being allowed to expire three times since 1992, which led to a boom-bust cycle in wind energy rather than a stable, long-term investment environment at limitless green energy resources to grow.
Our Congressional District is a model of an all-of-the-above energy corridor, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and oil. And Tehachapi is a leader in wind energy development. In fact, the Tehachapi Wind Resources Area has attracted wind energy developers because the wind blows nearly all the time through the mountains and valleys. In this area, over 3,500 wind turbines have already been installed, which produce electricity to power more than 250,000 homes and created more than 650 jobs (both directly and indirectly) in the local communities. Kern County alone produces over 30 percent of the total wind-generated power in California, and accounts for about 5 percent of the total wind power generated in the United States. Even with all of this, there is still opportunity for significant expansion of local wind power, which some estimates put as high as bringing 6,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity online. This would power over one million more homes. The WIND Energy Act would help ensure that the Tehachapi Wind Resources Area, as well as the United States' vast potential for wind energy can be developed in a reliable and timely manner, which not only benefits our local communities, but California and the United States.
The WIND Energy Act also helps create jobs. The wind energy industry currently employs over 85,000 individuals nationwide and indirectly employs tens of thousands more in industry-related support services. Providing long term stability through the WIND Energy Act would help create sustainable, good-paying jobs. In fact, a report published in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Energy found that a five to ten-year extension of the production tax credit, compared to one- or two-year extensions, could reduce the cost of wind projects by up to 15%, resulting in American job creation in this clean energy sector.
We can clean our regional air basin using more clean, reliable, and renewable energy. Wind-generated electricity produces no carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, in 2007, the American Wind Energy Association estimated that wind energy displaced more than 28 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
The WIND Energy Act is a common-sense idea that we can work together as Americans to help move our nation forward. Now is the time for Congress to answer the call of millions of Americans and take decisive action so that we can strengthen our future - a new decade for America that is powered by clean and renewable energy.
Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield represents the 22nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Californian reserves the right to reprint contributed commentaries in all formats, including on its Web page.