Answering the Call: Wind Powers Jobs & Growth in America’s Heartland

Last year, while overall U.S. jobs grew at a sluggish 1.8 percent, jobs in America’s wind industry grew 16.5 percent — nine times faster. By the end of 2016, U.S. wind employment hit a record-high 102,500 jobs, reaching all 50 states. By 2020, U.S. wind jobs are expected to more than double, to a quarter million, including jobs in communities near wind farms and factories.

Yesterday, at Minnesota’s State Capitol, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its 2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report. The facts documented in this report are clear — American wind power is a massive driver of U.S. jobs and economic growth.

Now more than ever, America is hearing the call to bring back U.S. jobs, revitalize a failing U.S. manufacturing base, and recommit America’s economy to benefiting American workers.

The U.S. wind industry is answering that call — today.

Across the nation, there is a booming U.S. workforce that is powered by the wind. Every new modern wind turbine installed creates on average 44 years of full-time employment for U.S. workers over its full lifetime. Of these jobs, 80 percent are in blue-collar construction, operations, transportation, the supply chain and manufacturing. They include the fastest-growing U.S. job — Wind-Turbine Technician — and substantial numbers of American Veterans, who the wind industry hires at a 50 percent higher rate than the U.S. industry average.

Each wind project also generates tens of millions of dollars for rural America, through jobs, taxes and lease payments to farmers and ranchers, enriching those families and communities.

Image: Vestas Wind Technicians Chris Marsh, Will Osborn, both veterans, join Vestas Site Manager Brad Haupert (2nd to 4th on left), other wind workers to launch 2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report.

The wind industry is rapidly expanding, and it’s especially meaningful to be part of an industry bringing jobs to my local community. After serving in the Marines, my wife and I wanted to return to Minnesota to be close to her family, and Vestas and wind provided that opportunity to come home knowing I’d have a career that could last and grow exponentially.” —Will Osborn, Lead Technician, Vestas, Veteran, US Marine Corps.

For 2017, wind’s strong market momentum is bringing more good news to Americans and the nation’s energy future — with more jobs, growth and cheap clean electricity for U.S. workers, businesses and ratepayers. Surging orders and investor confidence are underscoring wind’s increasing market dominance and new reality as America’s #1 renewable energy. Wind is now a mainstream player in the U.S. energy mix, and common ground that Americans agree on.

Wind is winning in the marketplace because of its proven reliability and market-beating cost, down 66 percent since 2009. It’s the cheapest source of new electricity and a growing, secure presence on power grids across much of the nation, attracting utilities such as Xcel Energy and MidAmerican Energy and corporate buyers including Amazon, General Motors, Google, Target and 3M.

In 2016, wind capped a second straight year installing more than 8,000 megawatts (MW), and exceeded both natural gas and solar in new U.S. utility-scale capacity for 2015-2016 combined, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Wind now counts more than 82,000 MW in U.S. capacity, enough to power 24 million American homes. Last year, U.S. wind invested more than $14 billion, building new wind farms and facilities across rural America. Nationwide, wind totals more than 1,000 utility-scale projects, 52,000 wind turbines and 500 factories.  

Bottom line: The U.S. wind industry is a major driver of economic growth in all 50 states of our union. It is also a key contributor to U.S. energy independence and resiliency, reliably delivering more homegrown, wind-generated electricity over America’s power grid. Wind generation rose almost 19 percent in 2016 and now supplies 5.5 percent of U.S. electricity.

In the upper Midwest, wind supplies 26 percent of Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas’ power. In Texas, last year wind supplied up to 48 percent of the power on the grid operated by ERCOT. In February, wind supplied 52 percent of the power on SPP’s grid, which stretches across more than a dozen states, from Texas to Montana.

That’s very good news for America’s heartland, where wind power has arrived in a big way. Wind development plays an important role in advancing energy and economic renewal in rural America, the Rust Belt and Midwest states, and has bipartisan backing from large majorities. In last year’s Presidential race, 83 percent of all Americans favored more U.S. wind development. And 74 percent of U.S. Congressional districts have operating wind power projects or wind-related manufacturing facilities, including 77 percent of Republican and 69 percent of Democratic districts.

Wind power is both proven and popular because it’s delivering for Americans — in their wallets, workplace and homes:

  • For U.S. farmers and ranchers, wind power has become the new drought-proof cash crop. Last year, wind farm leases brought in $245 million of much-needed annual income for family farms and ranch owners.
  • For U.S. workers, wind already supports more than 100,000 well-paying jobs across 50 states. The Department of Energy (DOE) projects that can rise up to 600,000 U.S. jobs by 2050. Employment in America’s fastest growing job — Wind-Turbine Technician — is expected to more than double in the next decade.
  • For U.S. manufacturing, wind is helping to rebuild America’s industrial base. Some 25 percent of wind jobs are in the supply chain, including 25,000 in industries such as steel, which is 80 percent of all wind turbines and towers.
  • For U.S. veterans, wind power hires veterans at a 50 percent higher rate than the U.S. industry average.
  • For U.S. ratepayers, wind power saves on their electric bills. By 2050, low-cost wind power will save Americans nearly $150 billion by 2050, DOE reports.
  • For U.S. states, more utilities are joining MidAmerican and Xcel to make historic commitments to wind. In the 50 state energy markets, policymakers, utilities and ratepayers are listening to the markets and voting for wind.
  • For U.S. businesses and investors, the economics are a no-brainer. Smart money is doubling down on wind. Advanced forecasting and smart data let wind contracts lock in costs for 25 years or more — like a long-term fixed-rate mortgage — for unmatched security. No wonder more Fortune 500 companies are investing in wind.

The case for wind is strong. Wind power is making America great — today. Wind power investment and installations don’t conflict with U.S. economic growth — they are a major contributor and driver of economic growth.

Connecting more Americans to cheap wind power will strengthen the nation’s “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy independence, deliver billions of dollars to American communities that need it most, and generate even more wind-powered American jobs and growth. Americans are united on wind.

Previous articleApple Explores Dual Land Use Solar Siting in Celebration of Earth Day
Next articleMacquarie to Boost UK Green Bank After $3BN Purchase
Chris Brown is president, Vestas Americas and board member and past chair of the American Wind Energy Association. Prior to Vestas, he served as Chief Operating Officer for the City of Detroit for about two years. A board member on the American Wind Energy Association, Brown's energy background includes time in the offshore wind industry, senior executive at a large U.S. utility and managing director at an international utility. Previously, he was Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Deepwater Wind LLC, where he created the plan for a 3,000 MW offshore wind company; Executive Vice President for DTE Energy Resources, where he was responsible for DTE's largest non-utility businesses including Energy Services, Coal Services, Biomass and Methane Resources; Senior Vice President of Singapore Power and Managing Director of Singapore Power International; Director of Asia Operations for Entergy Corporation; and Counsel for Constellation Energy. Brown holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Villanova University School of Law and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Delaware. He also attended Bonn University in Bonn, Germany, as a Fulbright Scholar, where he studied economics and finance.

No posts to display