A wind turbine manufacturing facility in Cedar Rapids is laying off some employees. Clipper Windpower officials say they’re reducing their company wide workforce by 32-percent, from 550 to 376 workers. The company is not releasing how many of those 174 layoffs are in Cedar Rapids, but workers at the plant believe it’s around 75.

Demand for wind turbines, blades, towers and other equipment has dropped off in recent months as the price of natural gas has dipped. In addition, utilities are moving away from wind power as the expiration of the Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit draws near. It’s due to expire at the end of this year.

State Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says Iowa stands to lose many more jobs unless Congress extends the tax credit. “We have somewhere in excess of 6,000 jobs related to the wind energy industry, so there’s no question if that industry is now scaled back significantly, Iowa’s going to suffer the consequences,” Hogg said.

“And it’s not just Cedar Rapids, it’s Newton, West Branch and other facilities in the state.” Kimberly Dickey, with the Iowa Renewable Energy Association, called the Clipper layoffs a “survival mode” decision. “Companies are smart to protect their bottom lines,” Dickey said. “It’s great to know that Clipper Windpower has done everything they can, up until this point, to keep their people employed.”

All of Iowa’s congressional delegation back the extension of the wind production tax credit and President Obama called for it’s extension, as well, during a visit to Iowa last week. Mitt Romney and other Republicans argue the tax credit should be allowed to expire – saying federal tax policy should not prop up energy projects that cannot make a profit on their own.

By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids