Wind Power Could Blow Life Back into U.S. Jobs

Boosting U.S. wind energy installations to approximately eight times today’s levels could create 150,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide, with most jobs being added in the 20 states that have lost the most over the past three years, according to a report released by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP).

According to REPP, some 90 companies in 25 states currently manufacture wind turbine components, and over 16,000 companies in all 50 states have the technical potential to enter the wind turbine market. “Wind energy is already a boon for communities across the American heartland, and could become an important source of manufacturing jobs nationwide, including in some areas that have been hardest hit by job losses,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “The stunning figures from this first systematic study of wind energy’s job creation potential in the U.S. demonstrate that clean, safe, domestic wind energy can also bring manufacturing jobs back to the states that need them most.” Wind energy installations have grown threefold over the past five years in the U.S., from under 2,000 MW at the end of 1998 to over 6,000 MW at the end of 2003, and wind farms now generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1.6 million average U.S. households. REPP sought to estimate the possible extent and location of manufacturing activities that could result from an expansion to 50,000 MW – which would pump $50 billion worth of investment into the economy and generate enough electricity to power 14 to 15 million households (3 percent of U.S. electricity supply). “The results of our study indicate that a significant national investment in wind has clear potential to benefit the entire country economically with tens of thousands of new jobs created and billions of dollars in economic activity,” said REPP Director George Sterzinger. “However, capturing that potential and creating a competitive domestic manufacturing industry in the face of international competition is likely to require additional incentives.” The study first identified companies currently active in manufacturing wind turbine components, such as ball and roller bearings, gearboxes, generators, transformers, power electronics, blades, towers, and more. Such manufacturers are currently spread out over 25 states including some that have recently experienced the largest number of job losses, such as California, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, and Illinois, and some of the least windy, such as Louisiana. In a second step, using the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes for 20 basic wind turbine components, the study found that 16,163 firms are engaged in manufacturing activities related to those required to produce wind turbine components. These firms are spread over every one of the 50 states. The 20 states that could benefit the most, according to the survey, could reap over 120,000 jobs, or 80 percent of the jobs created. These 20 states also harbor 75 percent of total U.S. population and account for 76 percent of the manufacturing jobs lost in the last three and a half years. They include California, Ohio, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. The recent announcement that Gamesa, a leading global manufacturer of wind turbines, will open its U.S. headquarters and a manufacturing facility in the state of Pennsylvania is a case in point, according to Sterzinger. The announcement also highlights the importance of additional incentives to capture wind energy’s job creation potential. “The decision by Gamesa to open a facility in Pennsylvania shows that state and local authorities have a role to play in attracting investment,” said Sterzinger. “Governor Edward Rendell has made it clear that his state is keen on welcoming advanced, renewable energy development, and as a result, it is claiming a slice of the growing wind energy business.” The REPP study focused on jobs that could be created in manufacturing, and did not quantify the job creation that would also flow into other sectors such as construction, transportation, marketing, financial and other services. The full report is available on the REPP Web site at the following link.
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