Op-Ed: Wind energy works to create American jobs

Source: By Tom Kiernan, The Hill • Posted: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The new administration is taking notice: wind energy is a job-creation engine that speeds up the path to American energy independence.

“Renewable energy, like offshore wind, is one tool in the all of the above energy toolbox that will help power America with domestic energy, securing energy independence, and bolstering the economy,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently said.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently tweeted his pride at the fact that his home state of Texas leads the country in installed wind power.

Here is one number that demonstrates why Secretaries Zinke and Perry are right that wind works for America: 248,000. By the end of President Trump’s first term, that is how many U.S. workers will have wind energy-related jobs according to a new analysis from Navigant Consulting.

Many of these jobs are in manufacturing, so they help revive part of the job sector that has struggled for decades. Over 500 U.S. factories employ 25,000 workers who build wind-related parts. Many are bringing jobs back to the Rust Belt. For example, Ohio leads the way with 62 wind factories, while Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have 26 apiece. By 2020, 33,000 Americans could be working in wind manufacturing, a gain of 8,000 U.S. factory jobs in President Trump’s first term.

The wind industry also proudly offers good career opportunities for the men and women who serve our country—they find wind-related jobs at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry, according to the Department of Energy.

You do not have to work in the wind industry to realize its economic benefits, however.

Farmers and ranchers are paid $245 million a year in lease payments for hosting wind turbines. That’s income they can count on when commodity prices fluctuate or there is a year of poor harvest — it’s their drought-proof cash crop. For many of them, this income is the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and seeing a way of life come to an end.

And it is not just wind farm landlords who get this economic boost — entire communities do.

Wind farms are often the largest taxpayers in a county, so they substantially increase local coffers. Towns use this extra income to pay teacher salaries, fix roads and buy new ambulances. New wind farms will pay over $8 billion in local taxes over the next four years according to Navigant, and that’s on top of tax revenues coming from existing projects. Overall, the forecast finds wind energy will create $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years.

It makes sense to make as much of our energy as we can from wind, which uses no fuel, and over time can increase our energy independence.

Wind power is now the country’s largest source of renewable generating capacity, and the fourth largest source of electricity overall. Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota and North Dakota all generate over 20 percent of their electricityusing wind, and wind supplies 14 states with at least 10 percent. Wind remains on track to supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020.

Wind energy creates hundreds of thousands of well-paying U.S. jobs, boosts rural economies in the nation’s heartland and enhances our energy security. As Secretaries Zinke and Perry have found themselves, wind works for America today and tomorrow.

Tom Kiernan is the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. Find them on Twitter: @TomCKiernan @AWEA.