Members of one segment of the American workforce -- veterans -- are speaking out on behalf of wind energy development, in Oregon and across the country.
Many military veterans say their experiences in the oil-rich Middle East have convinced them that the United States should be doing more to encourage alternative energy sources.
Some, including Nate Sandvig of Portland, have chosen new careers in the field. The Army vet now combs the West on behalf of a French company, EDF Renewable Energy, evaluating potential wind farm sites.
Sandvig says watching millions being spent on infrastructure projects in Iraq gave him a new perspective on energy independence.
"I saw that as money we could use for directly investing in our energy infrastructure," he said. "We have everything we need here. It's just a matter of making that investment, providing some regulatory certainty that helps finance these projects, like the Production Tax Credit."
The Production Tax Credit (PTC) gives a little more than 2 cents back to wind producers for every kilowatt-hour of power they generate.
Sandvig says the PTC helps attract investment in wind energy, because getting a wind farm up and running is expensive.
Uncertainty about PTC renewal has already prompted companies to slow or cancel wind projects and lay off workers, he adds.
Veterans' interest in wind technology does not surprise Michael Breen, a former Army officer who now heads the Truman National Security Project.
Breen says many of the skills learned in the military translate well to clean-energy industries, including the willingness to take on a new challenge.
"The clean energy sector is like that -- it's a dynamic, emerging place," Breen said. "New solutions are being put forward that are going to make all of our lives better and make us stronger as a country. Veterans are naturally attracted to that sort of thing."
The Senate Finance Committee has approved an extension of the Production Tax Credit, but the real question is whether Congress will take it up before the lame duck session ends. The PTC is set to expire at the end of 2012.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story.