Wind Energy Jobs Grew 70% in 2008

The United States wind industry created 35,000 new jobs in 2008, according to a news report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). 85,000 workers are now employed in the wind industry including jobs in manufacturing, development, construction, installation, operation, and maintenance.

Wind turbine and turbine component manufacturers added or expanded 55 facilities creating 13,000 new direct jobs last year.

“The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today,” according to AWEA. Iowa reached an installed wind energy capacity of 2,790 MW surpassing California to take the number two spot in the U.S.:

  • Texas - 7,116 MW
  • Iowa - 2,790 MW
  • California - 2,517 MW
  • Minnesota - 1,752 MW
  • Washington - 1,375 MW

“Wind jobs outstrip coal mining” read a recent Fortune Magazine headline for an article contrasting the growing wind industry to the U.S. coal mining industry, which employs about 81,000 workers. Writer Todd Woody suggested that the AWEA report provides “a talking point in the green jobs debate.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a 20% Wind Scenario report last year showing that wind power could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. Accoding to the DOE report, in the decade preceding 2030 the U.S. wind industry could support:

  • 500,000 jobs with an annual average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.
  • more than 100,000 jobs in associated industries.
  • more than 200,000 jobs through economic expansion based on local spending.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years.” But, Bode also notes that the economic downturn has forced some layoffs in wind turbine manufacturing, so economic stimulus and smart policy incentives are needed for the growth to continue.