When placed in the most optimal location, with the proper investment, research and development, wind farms can create thousands of jobs, revive the economic base of many Minnesota communities hit hard by the recession and help the U.S. become more energy independent, according to a report issued by Minnesota 2020, a nonpartisan think tank, which focuses on public-policy debate.
Minnesota is among the leading states for wind energy, with about 1,800 MW of installed capacity, according to Alliant Energy. Only Texas, Iowa and California rank ahead of Minnesota when it comes to installed capacity.
Since 2005, Minnesota has been dramatically increasing its wind capacity, which has grown by about 31% each year. This is due, in large part, to federal subsidies known as production tax credits (PTCs).
According to the report, Minnesota is in a good position to capitalize on this advantage for several reasons, including the state legislature's mandate that utilities purchase or generate 25% of their power from renewable resources by 2025 (30% by 2020 for Xcel Energy).
This renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has the potential to increase the state's wind power capacity by about 4,000 MW, which would create up to 2,200 new jobs during the 17-year construction phase and more than 900 sustained jobs during the wind farms' lifetime operations. These numbers would only grow as the state reached beyond the 25% minimum RPS, the report says.
In addition, construction of 4,058 MW of wind power would pump nearly $9 billion into Minnesota's economy over a 17-year period. Operation costs would propel another $1.5 billion annually into Minnesota's towns.
The report goes on to say that a good portion of the jobs created would be in the manufacturing sector, an industry hit especially hard during this economic slowdown. Employment in fabricated metal production – a key component of wind turbines – fell by 10% since the start of the recession. These lower-skilled jobs are also less venerable to outsourcing in wind production because of the high cost associated with transporting wind blades and other heavy components.
For more information, visit mn2020.org.
SOURCE: Minnesota 2020