American wind power added jobs over nine times faster than the overall economy amid robust growth for another year, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which released its 2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report April 19 at the Minnesota State Capitol. Installing more than 8,000 MW of new wind power for a second straight year, the U.S. industry invested more than $14 billion in 2016 in new wind farms built in rural America and now supports a record-high 102,500 jobs.
“Thanks to another year of strong, steady growth, wind increasingly powers the U.S. economy, adding nearly 15,000 jobs just last year and bringing total wind-industry employment to over 102,000 jobs across all 50 states,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “By building new wind farms, we are investing in rural and Rust Belt America. And last year, wind energy became America’s No. 1 source of renewable generating capacity, further advancing U.S. energy security.”
Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer addressed a letter of support for this year’s release to AWEA commenting on wind energy’s success. In the letter.
“Wind power is a critical component of an all-of-the-above energy approach focused on reducing consumer costs, furthering advances in renewable technologies, and moving our country closer to total energy independence,” Emmer said. “I will continue to support policies that further a comprehensive approach to improve our country’s energy outlook and ensure that American wind production remains a key component of that strategy.”
With total U.S. wind capacity at 82,143 MW at the start of the year, there’s now enough wind to power 24 million typical American homes. And with utilities and major American brands like General Motors, 3M, and Target continuing to buy large amounts of wind power through long-term contracts that lock in stable, low energy prices, demand keeps expanding for clean, low-cost wind energy.
“Bigger, better technology enables new wind turbines to generate 50 percent more electricity than those built in 2009, and at 66 percent lower cost,” Kiernan said. “With stable policy in place, we’re on the path to reliably supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020.”
Continuing to expand wind energy will widely benefit the U.S. economy, according to a recent analysis. By the end of President Donald J. Trump’s four-year term, American wind power will support more than 248,000 wind-related jobs, including those in communities surrounding wind farms and factories, according to a recently released analysis by Navigant Consulting. From now through 2020, wind power will create $85 billion in economic activity, Navigant found. The results of that analysis also indicate that over its lifetime, a single modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment.
Joining AWEA for the report’s release were Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy; Chris Brown, president of Vestas Americas and AWEA board chairman; and Doug Fredrickson, vice president of Blattner Energy. Each emphasized how growing wind energy creates opportunities for workers or helps save money for American homeowners and businesses.
“As the nation’s top utility wind provider for more than a decade, we’ve demonstrated how this renewable resource can deliver both economic value and environmental benefits for our customers, and that is why we’re continuing to make significant investments in wind energy.” Fowke said.
“The facts are clear: American wind power is a massive driver of jobs and economic growth for the U.S. economy,” Brown said. “The average modern wind turbine installed here in the U.S. creates 44 years of full-time employment over its lifetime. Each project means tens of millions of dollars flow to rural areas through jobs, taxes, and lease payments to farmers and ranchers, enriching those families and communities.”
“Wind power’s steady growth and policy stability helps Blattner create thousands of new American construction jobs at our projects throughout the U.S.,” Fredrickson said. “We are proud of the positive economic impact and opportunities Blattner is able to make in communities across America.”
Productivity gained in 2016
Thanks to American ingenuity and the country’s world-class wind resources, new wind farms generate 50 percent more electricity than those built in 2009. According to the 2016 market report, 95 percent of the American wind power capacity installed last year used turbines from a manufacturer with at least one U.S. factory.
Domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17 percent to more than 25,000 U.S. factory jobs, as three new factories opened in 2016 to begin supplying the wind industry, and at least five more plants expanded their facilities.
Expanding wind farms continues to largely benefit rural America, since more than 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural communities. According to the report, wind now pays more than $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners, often farmers and ranchers.
More than 74 percent of U.S. congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities, according to the report, including 77 percent of Republican districts and 69 percent of Democratic districts.
American wind power is not only installing more capacity, it is also delivering more electricity to the grid. Wind generation grew nearly 19 percent during 2016, and as of the start of this year, it provides 5.5 percent of the nation’s electricity.
At the state level, wind generated more than 30 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota generated more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind, while 20 states in all now produce more than 5 percent of their electricity from wind energy. The primary grid operator serving Texas (ERCOT) and the grid operator serving more than a dozen states across the middle part of the country (SPP) competed for new wind-power penetration records. Wind supplied up to 50 percent of ERCOT’s demand recently and 52 percent of SPP’s.
Wind power across the Upper Midwest
The report’s release underscores the economic benefits across the Upper Midwest of growing wind energy. Wind now supplies 26 percent of Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas’ electricity production, supporting more than 18,000 wind jobs and $28 billion in private investment in the region.
“In the Upper Midwest we’ve seen the emergence of a wind-powered economy that benefits from low cost energy, good job prospects and greater energy security,” Kiernan said. “These states’ pioneering spirit has shown America that we can achieve the Department of Energy’s ‘Wind Vision’ to reach 20 percent wind energy by 2030.”
Wind was 80 percent of all new electric generating capacity installed over the last five years across Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Adding large amounts of wind power has already kicked the regional economy into high gear, and state policies like Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard — celebrating its 10th anniversary — are key drivers that help states capture job growth and investment in wind power.
WINDPOWER 2017 in Anaheim
The trends highlighted in this year’s annual market report will be on full display from May 22-26 in Anaheim, California, at AWEA’s WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition, the U.S. industry’s largest annual gathering. The event brings together industry leaders from all 50 states and around the world to demonstrate new technology and new approaches and to make deals that shape wind energy for the following year.
For more information, go to www.awea.org