Hundreds rally to show why wind works for America

ARTICLE PUBLISHED ON THEHILL.COM

This week, hundreds of Americans from across the country are coming to Washington, D.C. for one reason: they want to make sure their elected officials know wind energy is making life better for their families and communities. They want to say loud and clear: Wind works for America.

And there are a lot of reasons why we feel this way.

Some are part of America’s 100,000-strong wind energy workforce, or one of the more than 25,000 U.S. workers at over 500 factories building wind-related parts. Thanks to their work, wind is now the largest source of installed renewable generating capacity in the U.S., and the country’s fourth largest source of electricity overall. Many of these factory positions are in the Rust Belt, where wind is helping to bring back American manufacturing jobs. For example, Ohio leads the U.S. with 62 wind plants, while Pennsylvania,Michigan and Wisconsin have 26 each.

Some of this week’s travelers are the men and women who serve our country. Veterans make up an important part of wind power’s highly skilled workforce, and the U.S. wind industry employs them at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry. We’re proud to offer good career opportunities to those who have served.

Others coming to speak with their representatives hail from America’s fastest growing job description: wind turbine technician. This occupation is growing by 108 percent in a decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (That’s compared to the second fastest-growing job, occupational therapy assistant, expanding by 42 percent in the same period).

Some don’t work in wind themselves, yet see crucial benefits that wind energy brings to their communities.

Wind is bringing economic development to rural America in nearly unmatched ways, because virtually all wind farms are built in rural areas. And 70 percent are located in counties where the local economy is hurting. So the private investment that wind projects bring into communities tends to go right where it’s needed the most. And that’s a lot of investment– $158 billion in the last 10 years.

For example, the country’s farmers and ranchers are paid $245 million a year for hosting turbines, a figure that’s constantly growing. That’s stable revenue they can count on when commodity prices fluctuate or weather hurts the harvest. Wind has become their drought-proof cash crop. For many families, this income is the difference between losing a multi-generational way of life, and passing on the family tradition.

Entire towns benefit when wind projects are built, not just those who lease their land for turbines. That’s because wind farms significantly expand local tax revenue or make direct payments in county budgets. This offers new resources towns use to fix roads, buy new fire trucks or improve local schools. It helps keep local taxes low.

Wind works in Texas, the nation’s leader, with 25,000 wind jobs just in that state. It works in Iowa and Kansas, where wind supplies over 30 percent of the electricity. Wind works for the Rust Belt, and for states like Oklahoma and Wyoming, which have vast wind export potential if we upgrade transmission infrastructure.

Wind works for Rhode Island, where an entirely new ocean energy resource has now been harnessed.

Wind works for states like New York, California, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, which have ambitious goals to source 50 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources.

Wind works for any state where it creates new jobs – which happens to be all of them.

In short, that’s why wind works for America.

Tom Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

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