At the end of 2016, wind power surpassed hydropower as the number one source of renewable energy generation in the country. And growing right alongside wind power generation are wind power jobs. There are now over 100,000 people employed by the U.S. wind industry. The fastest growing occupation in the country is wind turbine technician.
Now, a report released today by Navigant Consulting projects that careers in the wind industry will continue to grow drastically. The analysis forecasts wind power industry employment and investments through 2020. Navigant projects that wind energy industry jobs will grow to a quarter of a million jobs by 2020 (including direct, indirect and induced jobs). Additionally, over the next four years, the wind industry will generate $85 billion of economic activity nationwide. These economic benefits are based on projections that the wind industry will add 35,000 megawatts of new wind power capacity through 2020.
Alongside the Navigant report today, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released an accompanying paper that analyzed the already-existing economic benefits of wind power. The report showed that while utility-scale wind farms are just emerging in the Southeast, wind manufacturing facilities have been making a strong impact here for many years. Our region contains more than 100 facilities supplying components and materials to the industry:
While the supply chain is already making an impact, it’s clear that developing more wind farms in the region would greatly add to local economic benefits and create more wind energy-related jobs, particularly in the rural communities. AWEA’s report concluded that 99 percent of wind projects are currently located in rural areas.
The South’s newest wind farm, Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, in North Carolina is a perfect example of the impact a wind farm can make on a local, rural economy. The project generated approximately 250 construction jobs and 14 permanent jobs, but these statistics just touch the surface when it comes to economic activity. The wind farm is a $400 million capital investment in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. The wind developer, Avangrid (formally Iberdrola), is now the largest taxpayer in the two counties the turbines are located in. The combination of landowner payments and local taxes add up to $1.1 million injected into the local economy a year!
The reports released today send a clear message: As the wind industry continues to generate more electricity, it will also generate more American jobs. In order to take full advantage of this economic growth, states in the Southeast needs to hop on board and quickly work to expand wind farm development across the region. And with wind power at record low prices, there are plenty of opportunities to buy wind power!