Studies Prove the Economic Boost that Comes from Wind Energy Development

September 1, 2011

Audio with Eric Lantz, NREL energy analyst (MP3 2.6 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:46

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Energy Analyst Eric Lantz knows all about the job creation and economic development that comes with the development and operation of wind power. In fact, he is the author of a study titled, "Economic Development Benefits from Wind Power in Nebraska: A Report for the Nebraska Energy Office."

"What we found actually is that employment ranged, just from construction alone on average, roughly 1,000 to 2,000 workers per year. During the operations period, when the full amount of capacity is up and running, we actually estimated that that would support 2,200 to 4,000 workers. Those are per year estimates. And a significant portion of the higher number is the result of that significant local ownership component. That really does bring about much greater economic development activity.

In total, Lantz says the study estimated that building 7,800 megawatts of wind power over a 20-year period would bring 7.8-billion to 14.1-billion to the state of Nebraska throughout the construction and operation period.

Earlier this year, Lantz co-authored another study on the economic development benefits of wind energy for the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority. He says the study was more comprehensive including a look at wind development up to 9,000 megawatts and building the transmission to move that wind out of the state but showed comparable results.

"We estimated about 4,000 to 6,000 Wyoming jobs per year would result during a 10-year construction period and then during the operations period we estimated it would support about 2,300 to 2,600 Wyoming workers. Just in terms of dollars, there were some peak years of economic activity in which we estimated that there would be more than a billion dollars each year from construction and operations related activities. And then when just doing the operations alone, that's about 380-million dollars per year."

Lantz typically looks forward with his work—evaluating economic development if a project or set of projects are built. But he also looks back to see if his results are consistent with actual results.

"We're always trying to go back and look to see how our modeling compares to what actually happens on the ground. And that's done with both the methodologies that we use, as well as those that others are using. And in general, we found that things are relatively consistent. But we do tweak our models from time to time just to ensure that that consistency remains."

Lantz does note the indirect impacts of wind power are harder to measure but says the ripple effect definitely provides for additional economic activity at multiple layers—including in the area of manufacturing.