Wind Energy Industry Jobs & The Economy

 

The United States boasts some of the best wind resources in the world, with enough accessible kinetic energy to produce 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually—or nearly 10 times the country’s existing power needs. In 2012, American wind power blew through an historic milestone: 60 gigawatts of electric generating capacity, enough to power the equivalent of nearly 15 million American homes.

 

Wind power provides electricity at a stable cost, creates jobs, and generates revenue for farmers and rural communities. Revenue from wind farms also helps spur local economic development that supports roads, schools, libraries, and hospitals.

 

Today, wind energy is one of the most cost-effective sources of new generation, competing with new installations of natural gas and costing less than either coal or nuclear power. In fact, the cost of wind power has come down more than 90% since the 1980s, as technology has matured with more efficient manufacturing and enhanced turbine performance and reliability.

 

For example, in Kansas, the price of wind energy is now competitive with traditional sources of energy and because wind energy is inflation-proof, Kansas utilities have a guaranteed price for the next 20 years for the wind-generated electricity they buy.

 

For consumers, wind energy protects them against fuel volatility, protecting families and businesses from unpredictable price spikes that are typical of fossil fuels. Once a wind farm is built, the price is locked in by a long-term contract between the project owners and the local electric utility, which will not be affected by changing fuel market prices. See the economics section to learn more.

 

Wind Energy Jobs

 

As the wind energy industry continues to grow, it will provide many opportunities for workers in search of new careers. These careers extend beyond operations & maintenance (O&M) positions on the wind farms. The wind industry employs people in areas such as manufacturing, consulting, transportation, legal, finance, meteorology, sales, marketing, logistics, communications, public relations, policy, and more. According to the American Wind Energy Association, at the end of 2012, the U.S. wind energy industry supported 80,700 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs directly associated with wind energy project planning, siting, development, construction, manufacturing and supply chain, and operations. Of the 80,700 jobs, approximately 25,500 were in the manufacturing sector. The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report (PDF 3.4 MB) estimates that 72% of the wind turbine equipment (including towers, blades, and gears) installed in the United States during the year was made in America.

 

Wind farms, which are frequently located in the Midwest, Southwest, and Northeast regions of the United States, employ many people. Texas, California, and Iowa are the leading states in wind power generating capacity, but many other states are substantially increasing their wind generating capacity, which will employ more people. Texas leads the nation in wind jobs with more than 10,000 employed in the wind industry, followed by California, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas.

 

And the future of employment in the wind industry can be bright as well. To achieve 20% wind power by 2030, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the United States will require more than 100,000 additional wind turbines, creating more than 500,000 new jobs.

 

Jobs and Economy - Jobs

 

Source: 20% Wind Energy by 2030 (PDF 3.6 MB)

Wind Energy for the Economy

 

Since 2005, more than $60 billion has been invested in American wind power. At the current rate, the wind industry is investing between $10 billion and $20 billion per year in the U.S. economy. A significant incentive for this investment has been the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), which was extended by Congress on January 1, 2013.

 

Wind Turbine Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)

Wind turbine manufacturing represents a growing segment and business opportunity in the wind energy industry. More than 400 American manufacturing plants build wind components, towers and blades. Now, more than 50% of a U.S.-installed turbine’s value is produced in America, a twelve-fold increase from just a few years ago. Some turbine manufacturers plan to make 100% of their components in America, and the trend is expected to continue.

 

Wind turbines have more than 8,000 components, in such areas as:

  • Power transmission. Wind turbines have a sizable and complex power transmission system, requiring bearings, couplings, gears, hydraulic systems, brakes, machined and fabricated components, and shafts, among other components.
  • Electrical. The electrical system is a critical part of a wind turbine. Common components include power converters, controls, sensors, and generator components.
  • Structural. Turbines use a huge number of fasteners, castings, and other steel products.
  • Equipment. A variety of components, such as fall protection, turbine lighting, and other systems are needed. Turbines also require unique construction and on-site equipment.
  • Materials. Turbines are primarily composed of huge amounts of steel, but other materials, such as composites, ductile iron, concrete, aluminum, copper, and adhesives are also used.

 

In 2005, only one wind turbine OEM assembled utility-scale turbines in the United States. In 2010, three companies opened new facilities, bringing the total number of companies in the United States assembling nacelles to ten. This high-level activity is driving demand for local supply chains for turbine internals.

 

Economic Benefits for Landowners and Their Communities

Wind projects provide revenue to the communities in which they are located via lease payments to landowners, state and local tax revenues, and job creation. Utility-scale wind turbines have small footprints, enabling farmers and ranchers who lease their land to developers to continue growing crops and grazing livestock. Achieving the U.S. Department of Energy’s 20% wind energy by 2030 scenario would provide more than $8.8 billion in estimated property taxes and land lease payments between 2007 and 2030 – money that would stay in the local communities.

 

Featured Reports for Wind Energy, Jobs & Economy

 

Brookings Institution. (2011). Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment

This report concludes that the clean economy, which employs some 2.7 million workers, encompasses a significant number of jobs in establishments spread across a diverse group of industries.

 

Dean, K.D.; Evans, R.R. (March 26, 2014). The Statewide Economic Impact of Wind Energy Development in Oklahoma: An Input-Output Analysis by Parts Examination. Economic Impact Group LLC

Researchers calculated the contributed economic impacts of wind energy in Oklahoma during development, construction, and operational phases.

 

Electricity Human Resources Canada. (2014). Renewing Futures: Powerful HR Solutions for the Renewable Energy Workforce.

Renewing Futures is the focal point of a major research program, connecting players in the renewable energy industry via several outlets including webinars, speaker series, and focus groups. Second, it’s an online hub for Canada’s renewable energy sector, providing reliable data and analysis about HR issues affecting the sector.

 

Environmental Entrepreneurs. Clean Energy Works for Us: 2013 Year-In-Review and Q4 Report.

E2′s latest clean energy and clean transportation jobs report tracks more than 260 projects all across the country expected to create more than 78,600 jobs.

 

European Wind Energy Association. Economic Benefits of Wind.

 

Google. (2011). The Impact of Clean Energy Innovation: Examining the Impact of Clean Energy Innovation on the United States Energy System and Economy (PDF 545 KB)

This report attempts to estimate the potential impact clean energy innovation could have on the U.S. economy and energy landscape.

 

International Economic Development Council. (2013). Understanding Renewable Energy Businesses: Aligning Renewable Energy Firms and Economic Developers: A Survey of Renewable Energy Companies (PDF 1.4 MB)

The Wind Energy Foundation sponsored this research, which should help economic developers adjust their strategies to best support local renewable energy industries.

 

International Renewable Energy Agency. (May 2014). The Socio-Economic Benefits of Solar and Wind Energy.

The report highlights the significant potential for value creation along the different segments of the value chain for solar and wind technologies, including project planning, manufacturing, installation, grid connection, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning. Additional opportunities for value creation arise from supporting activities, such as education and training, financing and policy making. To benefit fully from the socio-economic impacts of renewable energy, the right mix of cross-sectoral policies, covering deployment and industrial policies, is needed. Building a domestic renewable energy industry requires stimulating investments, strengthening capabilities, promoting education and training, and encouraging research and innovation.

 

Navigant. (2011). Impact of the Production Tax Credit on the U.S. Wind Market

This report finds that if Congress allows the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind to expire, jobs in the wind industry will be cut in half, meaning a loss of 37,000 American jobs and a one-third reduction in American wind manufacturing jobs, while private investment in the industry would drop by nearly two-thirds. In contrast, extending the PTC will create 17,000 American jobs.

 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2013). 2011 Cost of Wind Energy Review (PDF 1.2 MB)

This report uses representative project types to estimate the levelized cost of wind energy (LCOE) in the United States for 2011.

 

Pew Charitable Trusts. (2009). The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses and Investments Across America (PDF 1.3 MB)

Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that despite a lack of sustained policy attention and investment, the emerging clean energy economy has grown considerably—extending to all 50 states, engaging a wide variety of workers, and generating new industries.

 

Pew Charitable Trusts. (2013). Advantage America: The U.S.-China Clean Energy Trade Relationship in 2011

This report documents how the U.S. exported more clean energy products to China in 2011 than it imported. The wind industry accounted for more than $920 million in trade, with U.S. companies scoring a $146 million surplus.

 

More Information

 

American Council on Renewable Energy. (February 2014). Renewable Energy for Military Installations: 2014 Industry Review (PDF 4.6 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2011). The Clean Energy Supply Chain in Illinois: Wind, Solar and Geothermal (PDF 1 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2011). The Solar and Wind Energy Supply Chain in Michigan (PDF 4.2 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2011). The Solar and Wind Energy Supply Chain in Ohio (PDF 7.4 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2011). The Solar and Wind Energy Supply Chain in Wisconsin (PDF 1 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2010). The Wind Energy Supply Chain in Illinois (PDF 4.4 MB)

Environmental Law & Policy Center. (2010). The Wind Energy Supply Chain in Iowa (PDF 1.1 MB)

Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. (2009). Wind Energy and Green Jobs (PDF 1.8 MB)

Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy. (2011). Economic Impact: Wind Energy Development in Illinois (PDF 2.3 MB)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2011). Economic Impacts of Wind Turbine Development in U.S. Counties (PDF 2.3 MB)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2006). Comparing Statewide Economic Impacts of New Generation from Wind, Coal, and Natural Gas in Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Economic Development Benefits from Wind Power in Nebraska: A Report for the Nebraska Energy Office

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Economic Development Benefits of the Mars Hill Wind Farm

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2011). Economic Development Impact of 1,000 MW of Wind Energy in Texas

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Economic Development Impacts in Colorado from Four Vestas Manufacturing Facilities

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Economic Development Impacts of Colorado’s First 1,000 Megawatts of Wind Energy

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Economic Development Impacts of Community Wind Projects: A Review and Empirical Evaluation

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2011). Jobs and Economic Development from New Transmission and Generation in Wyoming (fact sheet and report available)

National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2009). Wind Energy and Economic Development in Nebraska

Natural Resources Defense Council. (2012). At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry Is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies (PDF)

U.S. Department of Energy. (2008). 20% Wind Energy by 2030

U.S. Department of Energy. (2011). Wind Power Career Chat

 

Additional Resources for Wind Energy, Jobs & Economy

 

Advanced Energy Economy

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

BlueGreen Alliance

Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Careers in Wind (AWEA’s job board)

Careers in Wind Energy (U.S. Department of Labor)

Clean Energy Works for Us

Clean Jobs Index

Environmental Entrepreneurs

Environmental Law & Policy Center

KidWind: Wind Energy Colleges and Careers

Windustry

Women of Wind Energy

WorldWatch Institute