American wind power expansion is poised to drive 248,000 jobs and $85 billion dollars in economic activity over the next four years, says The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
These and other economic benefits will result from the addition of 35,000 megawatts of new wind power capacity through 2020, according to new analysis for the AWEA conducted by consulting firm Navigant.
AWEA’s white paper “Wind brings jobs and economic development to all 50 states,” highlights the economic benefits that wind already delivers to the US economy -- more than 100,000 jobs, with 102,500 workers in all 50 states.
“With over 100,000 jobs today, the industry is just getting started,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA.. “This new analysis projects the industry could drive nearly a quarter million jobs by 2020, with $85 billion in economic activity over the next four years alone.”
The cost of wind has gone down by two-thirds since 2009, said Kiernan, propelling wind to contribute 30 percent of total power plant capacity added over the last five years.
Jobs in the US wind industry grew nearly 17 percent during 2016, and Navigant expects this growth to continue. By 2020, the consultant expects a total of 248,000 wind-related American jobs.
By that time, Navigant expects to see 33,000 working in factories supplying the wind industry, 114,000 building, operating and maintaining wind turbines, and an additional 102,000 workers in jobs supported by the industry.
The 102,500 wind industry jobs identified by AWEA only includes those employees working for wind companies or in their supply chain in 2016, and not jobs in the community supported by a local wind farm or factory.
Wind is now the largest source of renewable energy capacity in the US, with over 82,000 megawatts installed at the end of 2016, enough to power 24 million average American homes. Navigant expects the development of 35,000 megawatts of additional wind power capacity between 2017 and 2020, a more than 40 percent increase.
And as of 2016, more than 80 percent of domestic wind towers and up to 70 percent of blades and hubs are made in America, with 85 percent of turbine nacelles are assembled there.
According to Navigant, this growth is made possible, in part, by the multi-year extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit in 2015. Congress passed a five-year extension and phase-out of the PTC with strong bi-partisan support. The credit has already begun phasing out on an 80-60-40 percent schedule starting this year. By 2019 wind will be the only major source of energy without a dedicated federal incentive.