American wind power supported a record 88,000 jobs at the start of 2016—an increase of 20% in a year—according to the U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2015, which was released April 12 by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The wind rush grew stronger in 2015, as the American industry installed 8,598 MW of generating capacity across 20 states, AWEA said in a news release. That’s the third most ever in a year, and a 77% increase over 2014. Wind’s first-place finish in new power plant installations represented 41% of all new capacity to come online in 2015, ahead of solar (28.5%) and natural gas (28.1%).
An additional 9,400 MW of wind capacity was under construction as of the start of 2016, with another 4,900 MW in advanced stages of development.
“Wind power benefits more American families than ever before,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re helping young people in rural America find a job close to home… With long-term, stable policy in place, and a broader range of customers now buying low-cost wind-generated electricity, our workforce can grow to 380,000 well-paying jobs by 2030,” Kiernan said.
Congress passed a long-term extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and alternative Investment Tax Credit with bipartisan support late last year. With the extension in place and the recent industry growth, wind energy is on track to meet the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Wind Vision scenario of supplying 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030, AWEA said in a news release.
The job growth in 2015 is primarily attributable to more wind project development and construction, requiring more than 38,000 employees.
The industry also experienced a stabilization of its manufacturing sector, which now supports over 21,000 jobs across 43 states, up over 10% in a year. And more than 8,800 jobs are held by wind turbine technicians, the fastest growing profession in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (growing more than twice as fast as the next fastest-growing job of occupational therapy assistant), according to AWEA.
Texas leads the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees. Wind project construction propelled Oklahoma to second place with more than 7,000 jobs. Rounding out the top five are Iowa and Colorado with over 6,000 jobs, and after moving up 11 spots, Kansas ranks fifth with over 5,000 wind workers. Maine gained the most in the state wind employment rankings, rising 16 spots.
Jobs at wind power projects, wind-related manufacturing facilities, or both, are now located in 70% of U.S. Congressional districts, AWEA said.
Wind energy provided over 31% of Iowa’s in-state electricity production in 2015, making it the first state in the nation to surpass the 30% mark. Altogether 12 states generated at least 10% of their electricity with wind energy.
Transmission helps tap more affordable energy sources at all hours for major cities and big brands like Google and Microsoft. Major brands and other emerging non-utility customers signed 52% or 2,074 MW of the wind power capacity contracted through power purchase agreements (PPA) in 2015. Low-cost wind energy increasingly appeals to organizations with goals both to lower emissions and to protect their bottom line.