Wind power is now the largest source of renewable generating capacity in the US, surpassing even conventional hydroelectric. According to the American Wind Energy Association’s US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, “The US wind industry generated over $14.1 billion in wind project investment [in 2016].” This massive investment in wind has recently impacted both the rural and low-income communities that have embraced wind. In fact, the future of wind development will continue in those areas. As stated, “approximately 80% of current construction activity or 8,355 MW (megawatts) is located in rural low-income counties”.
It’s More Than Economics
These investments carry a direct economic benefit. The value of wind projects has even extended itself to its communities via the annual property, income, and sales tax payments. These payments benefit governmental services as well as local school districts. This was the case in 2016, when a 300 MW Minco wind farm in Oklahoma made property tax payments. This enabled Minco Public Schools to significantly expand their technology budget, finance a new water tower for the community, and build a brand new high school.
Similar wind projects have tended to land in communities that need them. This is because “46% of current installed capacity, or 37,538 MW, is located in counties with high child poverty rates, or counties where the child poverty rate exceeds 20%.”
Ultimately, the total installed capacity in low-income counties has generated more than $111 billion in total project investment to date. This alone has procured $175 million in annual landowner lease payments. Wind project landowners in seven states currently receive annual lease payments in excess of $10 million. Texas is leading, followed by Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Kansas, Illinois, and Minnesota.
A Fast-Growing Career
But the wind industry offers a litany of occupations. These include “wind energy project planning, siting, development, construction, manufacturing, supply chain, and operations.” The US Department of Labor even declared “wind turbine technician” as the fastest growing occupation in the country. This growth has enabled the US wind and energy industry to break the 100,000-job mark for the first time. This will support 102,500 full-time equivalent jobs. In contrast, the US Department of Energy indicated that fossil fuel generation had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000.
Many states supported more than 25,000 wind related manufacturing jobs. Even states with no wind project activity at all supported a portion of these jobs. This means that as the wind industry continues to grow, so will its capacity to benefit the United States’ economy, impoverished communities, and workforce. All the while delivering clean and renewable energy to the general public.