Consulting firm forecasts Iowa wind jobs to double by 2020

Source: By Mitchell Schmidt, The Gazette • Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2017

A recent study estimates Iowa’s wind industry will grow by more than $9 billion and more than double in jobs in the next few years.

According to a Monday news release from the American Wind Energy Association, which cites a recent analysis by Navigant Consulting, Iowa is projected to have as many as 17,000 wind-related jobs by 2020.

That’s considerable growth for an industry that today supports about 8,000 direct and indirect jobs and is at about $11.8 billion in project investment, according to the AWEA news release.

By 2020, Iowa is projected to have the third-most wind-related jobs the nation, behind Texas and Colorado, the AWEA said.

“Wind does not provide just well-paying jobs, either, many Iowans also know wind farms are the new ‘drought-resistant cash crop’ in Iowa, paying up to $20 million a year to Iowa farmers,” AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan said in the release.

“Wind is already responsible for more than 36 percent of Iowa’s electricity generation, and with recent project announcements, the state will push past 40 percent in the coming years. We’re going to work with elected officials in Iowa to make sure that happens.”

The report cites efforts made by Gov. Terry Branstad and likely incoming Gov. Kim Reynolds as key factors in Iowa’s continued wind industry growth.

The AWEA reports Iowa — which last year became first in the nation to generate more than one-third of its electricity from wind energy — is second in the nation with more than 6,300 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity.

Last year’s announcements by the state’s biggest utility companies to invest $4.6 billion into the wind industry — $3.6 billion by MidAmerican Energy and $1 billion by Alliant Energy — will add more than one thousand turbines in Iowa.

In addition, a 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics fastest-growing occupations report projected wind turbine service technicians to see the highest rate of growth for any career in the nation.

The report forecast a 108 percent growth in the occupation over a 10-year span — from 4,400 jobs in 2014 to 9,200 jobs in 2024.