Wind Power Spurs Jobs, Income Gains At County Level

The authors didn’t intend it as an an analysis of the wind power production tax credit, but it’s hard not to see the results as one more argument to keep the PTC alive: Wind power reaches right down to the local level as an economic engine, boosting incomes and jobs in the counties where turbines go up, according to a new study.

“Taking into account factors influencing wind turbine location, we find an aggregate increase in county-level personal income and employment of approximately $11,000 and 0.5 jobs per megawatt of wind power capacity installed over the sample period of 2000 to 2008,” write researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eoconomic Research Service, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

wind power economic impact

Wind farm near Lake Benton, Minn. (image via Shutterstock)

The authors said their study was unique in that it moved beyond project-level case studies as well as modeled input-output estimates and instead evaluated actual county-level impacts from the wind power development in 12 contiguous states in the central United States.

Nevertheless, the authors said, the results were in line with those seen using other analytical methods.

“These estimates 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,” the authors write.

wind power economic impact

12-state study area (image via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

The overriding argument for wind power, of course, is that it can be a significant source of clean power, helping move the world off climate-damaging fossil fuels. But the economic piece is important as well in a time of steady but frustratingly modest improvements in the U.S. jobs picture.

That’s why the National Resources Defense Council, which supports wind for environmental reasons, recently backed research into the economic impact of wind power development.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • GeorgeS

      We are getting there. China and Europe will force our hand and make us invest more in wind energy.