Thanks to another strong year for wind energy growth, U.S. wind power added jobs over nine times faster than the overall economy in 2016, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), which released its “2016 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report” today at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Installing more than 8 GW of new wind power for a second straight year, the U.S. industry invested over $14 billion in 2016 in new wind farms built in rural America. Importantly, the industry now supports a record-high 102,500 jobs in the country, the report notes.
“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, at the release in St. Paul. “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.”
At today’s event, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, spoke out on his support of wind power.
“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,” he 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.”
The report says U.S. wind generation grew nearly 19% during 2016, and as of the start of this year, it provides 5.5% of the nation’s electricity. Specifically, with total U.S. wind capacity at 82,143 MW at the start of 2016, there’s now enough wind to power 24 million typical American homes, says AWEA. And with utilities and major American brands – such as like General Motors, 3M and Target – continuing to buy large amounts of wind power through long-term contracts, the demand for wind keeps expanding, the report adds.
“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 continued. “With stable policy in place, we’re on the path to reliably supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020.”
Further, by the end of President Donald Trump’s current four-year term, American wind power will support over 248,000 wind-related jobs, including those in communities surrounding wind farms and factories, says AWEA, citing recent analysis from Navigant Consulting.
The report notes that new wind farms generate 50% more electricity than those built in 2009. Moreover, 95% of the U.S. wind power capacity installed last year used turbines from a manufacturer with at least one U.S. factory.
On that note, domestic wind-related manufacturing jobs grew 17% to over 25,000 U.S. factory jobs, according to the report, which adds that three new factories opened in 2016 to begin supplying the wind industry, and at least five more plants expanded their facilities.
Considering more than 99% of wind farms are built in rural communities, wind now pays over $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners, who are often farmers and ranchers, the report points out.
In addition, according to AWEA, more than 74% of U.S. congressional districts have operational wind energy projects or active wind-related manufacturing facilities, including 77% of Republican districts and 69% of Democratic districts.
At the state level, wind generated over 30% of the electricity produced in Iowa and South Dakota in 2016. Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota generated over 20% of their electricity from wind, while 20 states in total now produce more than 5% of their electricity from wind.
According to AWEA, the report also underscores the economic benefits of growing wind energy across the Upper Midwest. Wind now supplies 26% of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas’ electricity production – in turn, supporting over 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,” added Kiernan. “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.”
Moreover, according to AWEA, wind comprised 80% of all new electric generating capacity installed over 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 – which is celebrating its 10th anniversary – are key drivers that help states capture job growth and investment in wind power.
Also joining AWEA for today’s release were Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy; Chris Brown, president of Vestas Americas and AWEA’s board chair; and Doug Fredrickson, vice president of Blattner Energy.
“The facts are clear: American wind power is a massive driver of jobs and economic growth for the U.S. economy,” said Brown. “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.”