South Carolina Offshore Wind Farm Could Produce Thousands of Jobs, Billions in Wages and Government Revenue

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Besides producing a massive amount of clean, renewable power for local and regional use, building an offshore wind farm off the South Carolina coast could produce thousands of green jobs and millions of dollars in wages and state and local government revenues, according to a study by Clemson University’s Restoration Institute and Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

A 1,000-megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm built off South Carolina’s coast would create an average of more than 3,900 jobs per year during its 10-year construction period and over $2 billion in wages from 2016 to 2030, according to the new report. In addition, it would add some $620 million to state and local government revenue per year over its 10-year construction period. Entitled “S.C. Wind Energy Supply Chain Survey and Offshore Wind Economic Impact Study,” the research was prepared for the S.C. Energy Office.

Green Power, Jobs, Government Revenues, and Long-term Growth

South Carolina’s government, along with those of most southeastern US states, has shied away from enacting strong, proactive renewable energy policies and programs, despite having ample solar as well as wind energy resource bases. South Carolina, and the US as a nation, have zero in the way of commercial offshore wind generation capacity installed despite having among the most extensive coastlines and coastal waters of any country in the world. In fact, South Carolina has zero in the way of utility-scale wind power capacity, onshore or offshore.

Nonetheless, South Carolina businesses are playing a vital role in the US wind energy industry. The state is home to businesses that together play “an important role in the nation’s wind energy supply chain,” according to a Clemson University News report.
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Director of the S.C. Energy Office Ashlie Lancaster says development of an offshore wind industry in the state would not only boost the state economy, create green jobs, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; it would lay a foundation for future growth and boost the state’s reputation nationally and internationally.

“Not only would an offshore wind industry help diversify South Carolina’s energy sources, it also would have the potential to generate thousands of long-term jobs and create a sustainable industry that could become the envy of the nation,” she was quoted as saying.

SC’s Vital Role in the US Wind Energy Industry Supply Chain

South Carolina is home to 33 businesses that employ a total of 1,134 people whose jobs are devoted to wind energy–related production or services on at least a part-time basis, according to the Clemson University survey. These green jobs make up about 14% of total employment at the firms which responded. Wind energy–related jobs in South Carolina pay an average annual salary of $78,308, above the state average $62,406 annual salary for similar types of jobs.

Investing in promising, fast-growing new energy sectors such as offshore wind is critical for South Carolina, S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt added. That’s especially true given sluggish job growth in the wake of the near total collapse of the US banking system and the economic recession and the government bank bailouts that followed.

“Commerce supports ongoing research and development that will help further our state’s portfolio of alternative and sustainable energy, including wind,” Clemson News quoted Hitt. “These industries can help fill the pipeline with high-skilled, high-paying jobs.”

Already playing a part, Clemson University is looking to play a bigger role in public-private wind and renewable energy collaborations. The university is working to help train a future workforce for the offshore wind and green energy sectors in partnership with a private industry player. They are offering certificate and advanced degree education programs.

“Part of Clemson’s role in our growing wind industry will be to provide a talent pool that allows our companies to innovate and be competitive in the marketplace,” John Kelly, vice president of economic development told Clemson News.

At least 17 facilities in South Carolina currently manufacture components for the wind energy industry, according to an American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) fact sheet. GE, the leading wind turbine manufacturer, has a turbine assembly facility in Greenville, while other large US wind energy supply chain manufacturers, including Kaydon Bearnings and PPG Industries, also operate plants in the state.

Vast Offshore Wind Energy Potential

Aiming to be the first to build an offshore wind farm in the US, Deepwater Wind last week submitted the final federal and state permit applications for its proposed $250 million, 30-MW offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island’s Block Island. Deepwater Wind invested more than $7 million and three years to complete what it says is “the most thorough study ever conducted of a U.S. offshore wind farm.”

America is at a turning point when it comes to harnessing the more than 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of energy generation potential identified in US coastal waters. Harnessing a realistic fraction of offshore wind’s potential — 52 GW — could power 14 million homes with clean electrons while creating over 300,000 new jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity in some of our biggest cities.

The findings come from “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy,” a new report from the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) outlining the energy and economic benefits offshore wind could create in the U.S., highlighting progress made to date, and detailing policy action needed to realize the industry’s potential.

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