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Published on February 4th, 2013 | by Andrew


County-Level Employment And Income Gains From Wind Energy Development

February 4th, 2013 by  

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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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • Could somebody explain this like: “The bottom line is…” ?

    • I’m not sure if I understand your question. The bottom line of the study is that wind power projects benefit the economy. Specifically, from the first paragraph: “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.”

      • Otis11

        Wind energy is a huge boon to the ranchers/farmers who own the land too. Many times, each wind turbine will bring in more income than the crop grown on that entire field, and they can still grow most of it. (Plus it’s guaranteed income not dependent on the weather)

        • Definitely. Farmers love it. With farmers and GOP governors behind it, it’s a wonder conservative media still gets away with bashing it.

          • Otis11

            I just can’t believe that actually happens all that much – I mean I don’t own a TV and so don’t follow “mainstream” media – but it just doesn’t make sense.

            I can understand criticizing wasteful spending (Hopefully every american) or direct governmental involvement (libertarians) but wind energy itself?

          • It’s a threat to the powerful, rich, entrenched coal industry.

          • Otis11

            So is it just true ignorance or does there appear to be an agenda?

            And is it really against the wind energy itself or against subsidies/policies?

          • Definite agenda against wind & solar.

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