Gamesa Energy has issued layoff notices to more than half of its Cambria Township work force.
Company officials say 92 of the plant’s 154 workers are expected to be out of work at the plant by early next year.
It’s part of a nationwide trend for wind energy companies. A congressional deadlock over whether to extend a soon-to-expire federal production tax credit has drastically weakened the market for new wind farms and components.
“Failure to extend the (tax credit), which expires at the end of the year, has caused a dramatic slowdown across the entire U.S. wind industry,” said David Rosenberg, Gamesa’s marketing vice president.
Rosenberg noted that the company has been forced to adjust to those poor market conditions.
Gamesa gave its employees a 60-day layoff notice last week, as federally mandated by the Department of Labor.
That comes on the heels of 73 layoffs at the facility during the summer. And if the company follows through with the next round, it would put its Ebensburg area work force at about one-quarter of its employment at full production in recent years.
The company’s plant in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, also has been hit with more than 90 layoffs since summer.
But Gamesa isn’t alone.
In the past two months, German-based turbine-maker Siemens announced it was laying off more than 600 workers in three states.
Clipper Windpower furloughed more than 170 workers in the fall. And Vestas, the world’s largest turbine manufacturer, laid off 3,700 workers globally this year, partly blaming a weakened U.S. market.
Rosenberg stressed Gamesa remains “fully committed” to the U.S. market.
He said some recently laid-off Fairless Hills workers could be back to work in the coming weeks to complete an order for a project in an overseas country. The Ebensburg plant doesn’t build those components, he added.
The American Wind Energy Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association that promotes the industry, said the looming deadline puts the nation’s wind companies at a crossroads.
It cites a recent study by Chicago-based Navigant Consulting that says 37,000 jobs could be eliminated in a year’s time if the tax credit dies – but that its extension would allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs by 2016.
U.S. Rep Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, who supports the tax credit extension, said he has been pushing for months to get it resolved in the House.
He noted that the extension does not have support from some Republicans.
Critz said “serious discussion” regarding an extension began only in recent days, and it likely will be weeks before more is known.
U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, could not immediately be reached for comment.
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