American Wind Farms
Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production
Stand underneath a wind turbine and it's easy to be awestruck.
Above you is a structure as tall as a 30-story building, with turbines as large as a football field and blades rotating at over 200MPH on the tips. It is an impressive example of energy innovation, and yet one of these mammoth wind towers provides clean, renewable energy by a simple mechanical feat -- the spinning turbines turn a generator that provides power for hundreds of homes.
Wind works. Over the past four decades, wind has provided an increasing amount of the energy we use. Today, wind farms generate about 50,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy -- the equivalent of the energy produced by 12 Hoover Dams.
As this report illustrates, clean, renewable energy is just the start of what we get from growing the number of wind farms across the country. The wind industry now employs 75,000 Americans. U.S. companies and their workers produce approximately 65 percent of every wind turbine part. Wind energy is giving American companies the chance to participate in a new and exciting global industries, American workers the chance to apply existing skills and seek new opportunities in a growing sector, and American communities the chance to prosper from truly clean, renewable energy.
And yet all of this growth and increased employment could be stopped in its tracks if Congress allows an important wind energy incentive -– the Production Tax Credit (PTC) –- to expire. If instead Congress acts to continue the PTC, the wind industry can continue its impressive success story. The amount of wind energy generated by U.S. wind farms has nearly tripled in the past four years, and wind power has represented at least one-third of all new power added in America over the last five years. In fact, estimates show America could get 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030 -– about as much as we get from nuclear energy.
This report outlines just how many jobs -- and what kinds -- low from a typical wind project. It is time to dispel the myths about wind and recognize the enormous value it provides to the health of our communities and the strength of our economy. Pulling the rug out from under wind now would cost jobs today and sacrifice future good, domestic jobs for many Americans across multiple economic sectors.
The Job-Creating Potential of Wind Energy
This report shows that workers contributing to wind energy include everyone from engineers to construction employees; from blade manufacturers to gearbox makers; from electricians to operators. And they're located all across the country.
Our research finds that just one typical wind farm of 250-MW creates 1,079 direct jobs over the lifetime of the project. Already 25 projects of similar or greater size have already been built in the U.S., and another 100 wind projects sized from 150-MW to 250-MW are in operation.
Importantly, these jobs aren't only created on the actual wind farm site during the installation of the wind turbines. These jobs are also created throughout the sizable wind farm economic "ecosystem" -- the chain of activities and businesses that, over time, comprise the many steps of building a wind farm.
Companies and Communities Also Benefit From Wind Power
In addition to jobs, wind projects boost revenues and create new markets for a wide-range of companies across many different industries. Each of the 14 steps in building a wind farm outlined in this report represents new opportunities for dozens of companies across many different cities and states.
Moreover, wind power projects offers significant benefits to entire communities where these projects are built -- from new earnings opportunities for farmers and landowners to additional tax revenues and lease payments that support other community priorities, such as better education, infrastructure, and economic development.
Unfortunately, misconceptions about the viability of wind power downplay the strong economic and employment benefits of wind power, and ignore the continued innovation in this sector. This report is ultimately an exercise in telling the story of one large wind farm -- showing the full economic impact -- to demonstrate the impressive value created by these projects, to highlight the opportunities for American companies, communities and workers, and to caution what is at risk if we don’t continue to invest in these renewable technologies.
Across America, the U.S. wind industry is exceeding expectations. This report offers a snapshot of this emerging trend, and points the way forward for a clean energy future. We must continue this momentum by promoting strong energy policies, beginning with an extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy, a crucial step towards building a strong, sustainable, market leading U.S. wind industry.
last revised 9/10/2012
Get Updates and Alerts
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.
- Efficient Appliances Save Energy -- and Money
- A consumer's guide to buying energy efficient appliances and electronics.