County-Level Employment And Income Gains From Wind Energy Development

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Publishing the results of a first-of-a-kind emprical study, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that average annual personal income increased approximately $11,000 and employment by 0.5 jobs per megawatt (MW) of installed wind power capacity at the county level across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions.

Image Source: Vestas Wind

First-of-its-kind Empirical Study of Economic Impacts of Wind Energy Development

Whereas prior studies of the long-term economic impacts of wind energy development at state and local levels were based on project case studies and input-output models such as NREL’s Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model, the DOE-USDA research team gathered and analyzed data from actual wind installations across nearly 130 counties and 12 states between 2000 and 2008, according to an excerpt from the DOE’s Fourth Quarter 2012 Wind Program Newsletter.

Map Source: DOE, Fourth Quarter 2012 Wind Program Newsletter

“Although the study does not provide a comprehensive economic analysis, it provides an empirical assessment of county-level economic development impacts while avoiding many of the potential weaknesses apparent in other methods,” the DOE explains.

Though not strictly comparable to the results of studies based on input-output models such as JEDI, the research team found the results of the DOE-USDA empricial study “are of similar magnitude” with respect estimated impacts on labor and employment.

“Such a finding suggests that input-output models, including the JEDI model, that are commonly used to assess the economic development impacts of wind energy (at least when applied at the county or local level) may not be unduly impacted by the generic methodological limitations highlighted earlier and appear to be reasonably accurate in their estimation of impacts,” according to a descriptive summary of the report.

In addition, the USDA-DOE research team also compared their results with seven independent analyses that used input-output models “to examine more than 20 individual scenarios and found that input-output models can be reasonable.”

As the DOE-USDA report authors note, “The economic development potential from wind power installations has been a driver of public and policy support for the industry at the local and state levels for many years.”

“The possibility for economic development has been particularly salient in rural areas of the country where new investment, earnings growth, and employment opportunities have, in many cases, otherwise trended downward for some time.”

The full report, The Impact of Wind Development on County-Level Income and Employment: A Review of Methods and an Empirical Analysis,” is available on Science Direct, Energy Economics.

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