Jan 01, 2016

Industry Highlight: Wind Energy

The wind energy industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing industries in 2016. The sector is bringing jobs, economic investment, and clean energy generation in states all across the country. These careers extend beyond wind farms, and also include workers in factories and offices to build and operate turbines. In 2013, more than 830,000 people were employed in the wind energy industry and related fields.

Number of Jobs in Wind Energy Industry Worldwide, 2009-2014

Number of Jobs in Wind Energy Industry Worldwide, 2009-2014

Source: Statista

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the U.S. wind energy industry installed over 1,600 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity in the third quarter of 2015 with more than 3,500 MW installed in the first three quarters of the year, which is more than double the capacity installed in the same time period in 2014. This year began with 12,700 MW of wind projects under construction, a record for the start of any year. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that by 2020, total wind capacity will be 113.43 gigawatts (GW) across 36 states, and increase of 52.31 GW since 2013. By 2050, total wind capacity is projected at 404.25 GW across 48 states.

“There are more corporations, universities and municipalities interested in buying renewable energy today than ever before. This trend will continue as long as the wind industry is able to provide high-quality, competitively priced options.” ~Charles Esdaile, Managing Partner at Altenex LLC

Employment Forecast

According to the AWEA, strong construction and manufacturing activity at over 500 facilities in 43 states added nearly 23,000 jobs in 2014, increasing the total amount of full-time equivalent jobs supported by U.S. wind energy to 73,000 at the start of 2015. The top state with the most under construction is Texas, with more than 7,800 MW being built. Other states with high wind energy-related construction include Oklahoma with over 890 MW under construction, Kansas with more than 870 MW, New Mexico with 680 MW, and North Dakota with more than 530 MW.

As of the end of 2014, there are more than 500 wind-manufacturing facilities spread across 43 states. Also, over 1,000 utility-scale wind-projects, representing 67,970 MW and over 49,000 wind turbines, are installed across 39 U.S. States and Puerto Rico.

Projected Change in Employment, 2012 to 2022

Projected Change in Employment, 2012 to 2022

Source: BLS

Job Title Focus – Wind Turbine Technicians

Wind Turbine Technicians, also known as windtechs, install, maintain, and repair wind turbines. Through 2022, employment for the career is expected to grow 24 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations. As wind electricity generation is expected to grow over the next few years, additional technicians will be required to install and maintain new turbines. Additionally, the Renewable Electricity Standard calls for 25 percent of U.S. electrical power generation to come from renewable sources by 2025, which should also drive employment growth.

The median annual wage for this job in 2014 was $48,800, with the top ten percent earning over $70,770 annually. The starting pay for apprentices is 60 percent of what fully trained windtechs earn.

The states with the highest employment levels for this occupation include Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wyoming.

“We are in the middle of a wind rush right now that is set to continue until midnight on the last day of 2016” ~ Auston Van Slyke, Program Director for Wind Energy Technology at the Ecotech Institute