By Peter Lehner
Wind energy provides clean, renewable power that doesn’t pollute our air, harm our health or keep us tied to the fuels of last century.
The wind energy industry is creating jobs for American workers and breathing fresh air into economically struggling communities by providing new sources of revenue for landowners, cities and towns, the two reports show. Wind energy is also giving American companies the opportunity to participate in a booming global industry.
Now is a good time to take stock of the benefits—direct and indirect—of wind energy.
As early as this week, Congress is expected to vote on whether to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) that has been critical to the growth of the wind industry in America and the 75,000 jobs that have come with it.
The PTC—which is designed to help level the playing field between the renewable industry and the heavily subsidized fossil fuel industry—is set to expire at the end of the year. If it does, the American Wind Energy Association predicts at least 37,000 Americans will lose their jobs.
Unfortunately, misinformed criticisms of wind energy seek to downplay the strong economic and employment benefits of wind power, and ignore the continued innovation in this sector. This report addresses these arguments and demonstrates why so many voters are excited about wind energy.
American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production
NRDC’s first report, American Wind Farms, looks at the direct employment impact from building one large wind farm. In all, 1,079 direct jobs are created by dozens of companies throughout the multi-year development, manufacturing, construction and maintenance phases of a wind farm. These jobs aren’t just created on the actual wind farm site—they're created throughout the sizable wind farm “ecosystem”—the chain of activities that, over time, comprise the many steps of building a wind farm.
Overall, this report provides workforce and company details on each of the 14 steps required to build a wind farm. For example, 57 workers—scientists, engineers, technicians and others—are required to design, build, test and prepare wind turbine blades. Another 202 jobs are created when heavy equipment operators, engineers, inspectors and others gather the wind farm components, erect the towers, and install the nacelles and blades. Hundreds more workers are needed to do everything from finding the right site for a wind farm to making sure it stays running.
American Wind Farms also surveys the landscape of domestic companies that make up the wind industry value chain. It highlights 13 real-world companies that benefit from wind farm construction—such as Michigan-based Ventower, which manufactures and supplies the steel towers for wind farms; Danotek Motion Technologies, supplying the wind industry with generators and power converters; and Reed & Reed, a wind farm construction company that assembles and installs all of the component parts at the wind farm site.
At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies
NRDC’s second report, At Wind Speed: How the U.S. Wind Industry is Rapidly Growing Our Local Economies details how four communities are benefiting from wind power.
Sherman County, Oregon, and Livingston County, Illinois, are two rural communities that have embraced their natural wind resources and supported the development of large wind farms on their land. As a result, per capita incomes in these communities have grown significantly, as landowners who lease their land to wind energy companies, raking in as much as $8,000 dollars for every turbine built on their property (while still being able to farm and ranch their property). The communities also benefit from increased local government revenues from wind farm property taxes and other fees, often reinvesting the new revenues into local schools, infrastructure and economic development programs. In one case, a local auto dealership stayed open thanks to a loan that came out of an economic development fund started by a wind developer.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Canton, Ohio, have seen similar benefits, through different means, as they have landed multiple wind manufacturing facilities. In Cedar Rapids, 460 manufacturing jobs have been created by new wind companies, along with a renewable energy technician training program at the local community college. In Canton and surrounding Stark County, 19 separate companies are involved in the wind energy supply chain, which has meant hundreds of jobs, strong economic growth, and recently, the first wind energy research and development center of its kind.
Bottom Line: Wind Energy Means Economic Growth and Jobs
Across America, the U.S. wind industry is exceeding expectations, providing powerful economic opportunities for companies, workers and communities.
These reports offer a snapshot on this emerging trend, and points to the way forward for a clean energy future. They show that we can—and should—continue this momentum by promoting strong energy policies, beginning with an extension of the Production Tax Credit.