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Wind Energy is a Strong Investment in Rural America

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON:  American Wind Energy Association

WRITTEN BY: Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association

This is how you invest in rural America today and tomorrow 

Moving up the economic ladder can be much more difficult in rural America than in other places.That was the key finding from a recent report on the differences between urban and less-populated parts of the county. As the study’s authors stated in their introduction, “Place matters.” There are any number of reasons why this might be the case. Rural areas generally offer fewer job opportunities, and small tax bases may struggle to fund schools. Incomes can falter as a result.

However, researchers at the bipartisan Economic Innovation Group found an important exception: rural communities that are comparatively well-off are able to provide their children with the very best springboard to enhanced economic prospects, it turns out.

“Prosperous rural areas can provide a significantly greater boost to children than even prosperous urban areas, suggesting that the quintessential engine of economic mobility may not be the urban melting pots of Horatio Alger-style myth, but rather the small town communities of the Upper Midwest,” their report explains.

Here is where wind power has a role to play.

Because 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, they bring economic development into these regions on a nearly unmatched scale. Wind has driven over $140 billion of investment over the past decade, and another $85 billion of economic activity is on the way in just the next four years.

Many of the country’s 100,000-strong wind energy jobs benefit rural communities, with more coming. By the end of President Trump’s first term, the U.S. could have 248,000 wind-related jobs, in wind companies, the supply chain, and the communities surrounding wind farms and factories.

Much of this goes right to the rural areas that need it most.

Because wind farms are often the biggest taxpayers in a county, they swell local coffers. That new revenue helps pay teacher salaries, buy new school computers, build classrooms, and expand educational opportunities in other ways.

Consider the Lincolnview School District, in the rural northwestern corner of Ohio. After a wind farm was built several years ago, the school district was able to provide every student from grades K through 12 with a new laptop — and fund the repair and replacement program, too. Lincolnview offers advanced classes in biomedical and pre-engineering it would not have been able to fund before the wind farm.

Or take Lowville, a rural town in upstate New York. The Lowville school district funded new Advanced Placement classes, and it built new athletic fields using funds from a nearby wind farm. In fact, researchers from Syracuse University are currently studying Lowville schools because their students perform significantly better on standardized tests than students from similarly income-constrained areas.

“This opportunity with wind, it’s incredible to see. It’s been the number one economic development we’ve ever had,” says Jeff Snyder, Lincolnview school district superintendent. “I don’t know any better way to spend money than on kids and our future.”

These resources open opportunities for economic mobility.

While the researchers point to the Upper Midwest in their report as an example of prosperous rural areas, we in the wind industry also look to the area because it showcases wind power’s potential.

I would like to think the two are related.

Iowa sits right in the middle of that Upper Midwest region, and no state has better taken advantage of its God-given wind resource. Today wind supplies over 35 percent of the state’s electricity, and the resulting job creation and economic development is impressive.

Over 8,000 Iowans now have wind-related jobs, many of them at 11 in-state factories that build wind turbines and parts. Iowa’s farmers get over $20 million a year in lease payments for hosting turbines. That’s income they can count on rain or shine. And wind farm construction has brought $11.8 billion of investment into the state’s economy, including $1 billion investments from both MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy.

More is on the way. Iowa could have over 17,000 wind-related jobs and another $9 billion of additional economic activity from wind power by 2020.

That is how you bring economic development into rural America, and offer our children futures full of opportunity.

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Wind energy is setting records in the U.S. and around the world

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THINKPROGRESS.COM

WRITTEN BY: NATASHA GEILING

Wind power had a big year in 2016 — but it risks an unpredictable future in the face of uncertain policy in the United States and in Europe.

In the United States, wind power achieved its second strongest quarter ever, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), surpassing hydropower to become the largest source of renewable electricity capacity in the United States. Overall, wind capacity now ranks fourth in the United States, behind coal, natural gas, and nuclear.

The wind sector also added 88,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy in 2015 — more than three times the 28,000 temporary construction jobs that the Trump administration claims would be created by constructing the Keystone XL pipeline (though reports suggest Trump’s estimate is likely grossly inflated). Wind turbine technician is currently the fastest growing job in the United States, and both wind and solar jobs are currently growing at rates faster than the U.S. economy, according to a report released last month by the Environmental Defense Fund. In 2016, for the first time, the number of U.S. jobs in renewable energy surpassed the number of jobs in oil drilling.

Capacity, while an important metric, is defined as the total amount of output a particular electricity generator can produce at a specific time, under specific conditions. Generation is the actual amount of electricity that is produced. And while renewables account for a large percentage of recently installed capacity, solar and wind still account for a small portion of total U.S. generation — 4.7 percent for wind and 0.6 percent for solar.

Wind also had a big year in Europe, with wind accounting for more than half of all new installed capacity for the first time ever. Renewable energy writ large accounted for nearly 90 percent of new power added in Europe last year, with 21.1 gigawatts of the total 24.5 new gigawatts installed coming from wind or solar, plus more controversial renewable technologies like biomass and hydropower. That new renewable capacity helped push wind past coal to become Europe’s second largest form of power capacity, though coal still is used to meet more of the continents electricity demand.

Germany led the charge in installing new wind capacity, installing nearly 44 percent of the total wind capacity installed in Europe in 2016. France installed the second most wind capacity, with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom ranking third and fourth, respectively.

But growth of wind and renewables faces an uncertain future, as fossil fuel-friendly politicians in the United States and Europe look to curtail policies aimed at bolstering renewable growth. In the United States, Trump has pledged an “America first” energy plan that involves extracting coal, natural gas, and oil from federal lands and offshore drilling sites, and has criticized wind for being too expensive and killing “all of the birds.” (In reality, energy costs are at a record low in the United States, thanks in part to the adoption of wind and solar technologies.) Despite his distaste for wind power, however, Trump did tell voters in Iowa during the campaign that he supported subsidies for wind, like the production tax credit.

The U.S. Congress agreed to extend both the production tax credit and the investment tax credit, meant for solar power, in 2015, and because renewable energy like solar and wind is big in both Republican and Democratic-controlled states, its often looked at as a bipartisan issue. Still, it’s unclear how much support these industries can expect from the Trump administration, whose policies focus on fuels like coal and oil much more than renewables.

In Europe, only seven of the European Union’s 28 member countries have clear plans to continue wind power growth through 2020, Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, told the Guardian.

“We today see less political and policy ambition for renewables than we did five or even three years ago, across the member states,” Dickson said.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, recent policies have made it more difficult to develop onshore wind by requiring that the land be identified as suitable for wind development in a Local or Neighborhood Plan. Most local plans were developed before this was required, however, meaning that many local plans don’t include wind energy — making it difficult to install more wind capacity.

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Wind Power Grows America’s Economy And Keeps Our Air Clean

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON:  Total Health Magazine 

WRITTEN BY: Hannah Hunt 

In todays world, finding common ground is not always an easy task. But here’s one thing all Americans can agree on: we want to have clean air and a healthy economy. Because of technologies like wind energy, we don’t have to choose one over the other.

Growing wind power powers American job creation and economic development, while over time increasing U.S. energy independence by using a homegrown, emission-free electricity source.

America’s 100,000—strong wind power workforce

Over 100,000 Americans are employed by the wind industry today, across all 50 states. Many of these are manufacturing positions at the nation’s more than 500 factories that build the blades, towers, and other parts that go into wind turbines. Over 25,000 of these U.S. workers have well-paying jobs at wind manufacturing facilities, breathing new life into an economic sector that has struggled for decades.

“I’ve got very strong high moral and Christian values, and I think they line up very well with this kind of energy,” says Blake Kasper, a Quality Supervisor at Broadwind Energy in Abilene, Texas, where he helps build wind turbine towers. “There’s just so much work, orders keep pumping in. The opportunities are limitless.”

Importantly, many of these new manufacturing jobs are found across the Rust Belt, hiring workers where they’re needed the most. Ohio leads the way with 62 wind factories, while Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan boast 26 each.

And these jobs will continue growing. Wind manufacturing jobs will grow to 33,000 by the end of President Trump’s first term, according to recent analysis from Navigant consulting. Because 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, many of the jobs that wind creates belong to those living in our country’s agricultural areas. This offers new career opportunities in communities where those can be scarce.

For example, a wind turbine technician is by far America’s fastest growing job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is projected to grow by 108 percent over the next decade, far outpacing the next job on the list, occupational therapy assistant, only increasing by 42 percent. With nearly all of the country’s 52,000, and counting, wind turbines in rural areas, there is strong demand for more technicians to keep them running smoothly.

The U.S. wind industry also proudly offers good career opportunities to the men and women who serve our country— veterans find wind energy jobs at a rate 50 percent higher than the average industry.

This massive U.S. job creation will not stop anytime soon. By 2020, there could by 248,000 wind-related jobs according to Navigant Consulting.

Investing in rural America

You don’t need to have a wind job to realize the economic benefits of wind power, however. Wind farms bring new resources into rural areas in a nearly unmatched scale.

Nearly all of the country’s wind projects are built on private land, which means farmers and ranchers get lease payments in exchange for hosting wind turbines. These payments totaled $245 million in 2016 alone, and approximately $175 million of that total went to landowners in low-income counties. That number will keep increasing as the U.S. wind industry continues to grow.

Lease payments offer income farmers and ranchers can count on when commodity prices fluctuate or bad weather hurts the harvest. For many families, these payments can make the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and ending a way of life. That’s why some call wind energy their “drought-proof cash crop.”

However, entire communities benefit from these projects, not just wind farm landlords.

Wind farms are often a county’s largest taxpayers, so they add substantial revenue to the local budget. This income helps pay teacher salaries, fix roads and buy new ambulances. Navigant projects new wind projects will create $8 billion of added sales, income and property tax payments over just the next four years, on top of payments coming from projects that already exist. In all, wind will drive another $85 billion of economic activity between now and 2020.

“Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago,” the Omaha World-Herald recently reported.

Clean air, healthy communities

Wind energy provides all of these economic benefits while also playing a major role in creating cleaner air.

By reducing harmful air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause smog and trigger asthma attacks, wind created $7.3 billion in public health savings in 2015 alone. By 2050, wind could prevent a total of 22,000 premature deaths and save $108 billion in public health costs by reducing air pollution, according to the Department of Energy.

“Unhealthy air is hazardous to our families and even can threaten life itself,” according to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Healthy Air Campaign. That is why the ALA has adopted as one of its goals the transition to a clean energy future, “to protect all people from the harm of air pollution.” Wind’s clean air role should grow in the years to come.

Today, the U.S. has enough installed wind capacity to power 24 million homes, and it is on track to supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2020. Substantial job creation, billions of dollars of economic investment and clearer air—American wind power helps us create the healthy economy and environment we all want.

Read the full article here. 

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What Does a Job in America’s Fastest Growing Profession Look Like?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON: AWEABLOG.ORG 

What are wind techs, why are they so in demand, and how do you become one?

The average growth rate for all occupations is seven percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But for wind turbine technicians?

It’s 108 percent.

That means the amount of men and women employed fixing and maintaining wind towers will more than double between 2014 and 2024. There’s no denying it– wind techs are in demand.

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AWAEA.ORG | What are wind techs, why are they so in demand, and how do you become one?

What do wind turbine technicians do?

“Each turbine can be viewed like an airplane on a stick,” says Daniel Lutat of Iowa Lakes Community College (one of the country’s largest training schools for techs). Imagine the electrical, mechanical and communications systems of an airplane. Wind techs maintain and repair these complex technical elements, all while perched hundreds of feet in the air. Some of their main job tasks include:

  • Inspections
  • Repairs
  • Maintenance
  • Testing and fixing electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic components and systems
  • Collecting data
  • Upkeep of other aspects of a wind facility, such as underground transmission

Some wind techs build new turbines, but most of their work involves maintaining ones that already exist. An area of particular importance lies within the nacelle, the portion that sits on top of the tower. This hub contains hundreds of parts that that come together to generate electricity.

Click here to read the full article. 

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