Ohio May Benefit from Rising Interest in Wind-Powered Electrical Generation

Wind power is about to get energized, and experts say Ohio could benefit.

Nov. 3—Wind power is about to get energized, and experts say Ohio could benefit.

After lying virtually dormant this year, wind-energy development is expected to kick up in 2005 on a wave of federal tax breaks that were approved last month. The 10-year credits apply to new wind turbines.

Experts say those incentives should make 2005 a banner year for wind farms nationwide and could be a boon for Ohio companies that supply the industry.

A study last month by the Renewable Energy Policy Project in Washington predicted that Ohio could gain 11,688 manufacturing jobs if wind energy takes off.

The group said more than 150,000 jobs could be created nationally, with California getting the largest portion, Ohio ranking second.

"We're pumped up about the prospects for more development," said Bill Spratley, leader of Green Energy Ohio, a Columbus organization that supports alternative energy.

"Ohio has a very heavy manufacturing base that already is providing materials for the industry. We have the industrial base to get into this big time. It's just a matter of time before this blows right off."

In preparation for more development, Green Energy Ohio, the Ohio Department of Development and U.S. Department of Energy will hold the Ohio Wind Power Conference Tuesday and Wednesday in Cleveland to discuss the potential.

Although Ohio's only wind farm is in Bowling Green, many companies are involved in wind development or easily can become suppliers.

Columbus-based American Electric Power has two wind farms in Texas and will open another in Oklahoma next year. Owens Corning is conducting tests at its Granville research center in anticipation of wind-farm construction. The Toledo company supplies materials for fan blades and is working on improving their strength.

"The predictions are there will be more growth," AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said. "With the tax credit, it makes development more cost-effective."

The tax breaks had been granted intermittently since 1999 and expired in December, nearly halting development, said the American Wind Energy Association in Washington.

At least nine Ohio companies supply the industry now, ranging from bearing-maker Timken Co. in Canton to Lubrizol Corp., a Cleveland lubricant manufacturer. Experts agree that Ohio will benefit but aren't sure to what degree.

Owens Corning could be one of the biggest beneficiaries in the state.

Its glass-reinforcing materials and composites are in 46 percent of wind projects.

"Owens Corning could see an increase in business," said Jim Snyder, the company's global wind-energy-market manager. "If that occurred, we would probably put more people in that business."

Most wind farms are in the Great Plains, which offer the best wind patterns and topography. But the Renewable Energy study shows many states could land jobs that support the industry.

"The results of our study indicate that a significant national investment in wind has clear potential to benefit the entire country economically," said George Sterzinger, group director.

The study said the jobs would materialize if the 6,000 megawatts produced nationally by wind power were expanded to 50,000 megawatts.

From 1998 to 2003, the nation saw an increase of just 4,000.

"It's not a guarantee the jobs will come. It speaks more to the potential if the industry ramps up," said Christine Real de Azua, wind-association spokeswoman.

Some say the jobs would materialize slowly.

"I have no doubt we're going to have an eight-fold increase. I just don't know whether it is going to take five years, 10 years or more," said Robert Burns, senior research specialist at the National Regulatory Research Institute at Ohio State University.

"Wind generation is labor intensive, and it does create a lot of jobs. There are wind resources in Ohio that could be tapped."

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