Wind projects raise local incomes, study finds

Wind power installations built over the first decade of this century raised local incomes at the county level, according to a new study by several federal agencies.

The study, “Ex post analysis of economic impacts from wind power development in U.S. counties,” reviewed the time period from 2000 to 2008 and concluded personal county level income rose an average of $11,000 per MW. The median increase in total county-level personal income resulting from this sample of wind power installations was estimated to be 0.2% with a range of 0.03% and 0.9% at the 25th and 75th percentiles, respectively.

These wind farms also added 0.5 jobs per MW. The median increase in county-level employment was estimated at 0.4%, with an increase of 0.1% and 1.4% at the 25th and 75th percentiles, respectively.

It provides a first-of-its-kind analysis of the impact of wind power development in the U.S. on county-level employment and personal income across 130 counties within 12 states. 

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is published in the journal Energy Economics

“Policymakers and economic development practitioners interested in the potential impacts of wind power on economic development have, to date, typically relied upon project-level case studies or modeled input–output estimates, often focusing on potential local, state-wide, or national employment or earnings impacts,” the study says.

Those methods are controversial, the study reports, as they overlook impacts at a smaller subset of data. Prior studies also tend not to focus on the long-term impact such developments have on permanent employment.

The current results appear broadly consistent with modeled input–output results, and translate to a median increase in total county personal income and employment of 0.2% and 0.4% for counties with installed wind power over the same period.