They took it right to the edge, but the US wind energy business managed to rescue the production tax credit around which many of their projects and manufacturing investments are structured. In the process Capitol Hill supporters of the sector rescued a claimed 37,000 jobs and the supply chain for a rapidly expanding form of power generation.

The effort to rescue the wind energy PTC and the also-extended investment tax credit (ITC) was not directly linked to the fiscal cliff debate, but became intertwined with the calendar-driven effort to prevent earlier tax cuts and credits from expiring without any replacement policy in place. The inclusion of the wind energy PTC, which was thought to be sufficiently likely to expire that companies spent significant sums as they rushed to turn on wind farms before the end of 2012, speaks to the expanded power of the wind industry groups in Washington, DC and the increased centrality of the wind energy business to major infrastructure and engineering firms with substantial US manufacturing operations including GE Energy, Siemens and Vestas.

The version of the PTC credit extension that was included in the last-minute deal to avert the fiscal cliff includes all facilities that begin construction in 2013, an important difference from those that start operation in 2013; facilities will continue to be able to garner the tax credit over the course of their operating life even if they start operating in 2014, and that dispensation allows the project pipeline to refill sufficiently following the boom of project completions that closed 2012.

“Companies that manufacture wind turbines and install them sought that definition to allow for the 18-24 months it takes to develop a new wind farm,” the American Wind Energy Association said in a release following the announcement.

The extension is a clear victory for the wind energy industry in DC following a series of moves in the sector’s senior representation there. AWEA CEO Denise Bode announced she would step from the organization three weeks ago, leaving long-time DC energy sector insider Rob Gramlich, already a Senior VP at the group, in charge as interim CEO. Bode had added staff and previous knowledge of running energy sector lobbying groups following her leadership at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, while Gramlich worked as an advisor to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Pat Wood during his leadership of the group.

To learn more about how the wind industry has developed across the world over the past decade, read Breaking Energy’s “Wind Rush” white paper here.