In a packed room full of reporters, industry reps, and wind workers, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its 2016 U.S. Wind Energy Industry Annual Market Report yesterday at the State Capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Thanks to another year of strong, steady growth, wind increasingly powers the U.S. economy, adding nearly 15,000 jobs just last year and bringing total wind industry employment to over 102,000 jobs across all 50 states. By building new wind farms we are investing in rural and Rust Belt America. And last year, wind energy became America’s number one source of renewable generating capacity, further advancing U.S. energy security,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, speaking in St. Paul.
In looking through all the resulting stories, one of the most noteworthy things said at the event came from Xcel Energy’s CEO Ben Fowke:
“The fuel of tomorrow is literally on sale today. I look at wind as a fuel. So I might have to have a natural gas plant on the ready. But if I’m not firing up natural gas, instead I’m letting wind which is more economical do its work, then everybody benefits.”
Mr. Fowke’s comments come as AWEA reported yesterday that new wind turbines now generate 50 percent more electricity than those built in 2009, and at 66 percent lower cost. Mr. Fowke had more to say about wind in a release issued on the same day, highlighting the win-win that comes along with integrating wind energy as part of its portfolio for consumers:
“As the nation’s top utility wind provider for more than a decade, we’ve demonstrated how this renewable resource can deliver both economic value and environmental benefits for our customers and that is why we’re continuing to make significant investments in wind energy.”
The former part of Mr. Fowke’s comments came during a press event in the state’s Capitol Building alongside AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan, Blattner Energy Vice President Doug Fredrickson, and Vestas Americas President and AWEA Board Chair Chris Brown. The speakers were surrounded by over a dozen wind workers, including technicians and manufacturing workers, that have jobs in wind throughout the state.
AWEA’s annual market report showed that the U.S. wind energy industry added jobs over 9 times faster than the overall economy, resulting in a record-high amount of jobs at the start of 2017 with 102,500.
AWEA Board Chair Chris Brown emphasized the growing amount of economic benefits highlighted by this year’s report saying: “The facts are clear – American wind power is a massive driver of jobs and economic growth for the U.S. economy. The average modern wind turbine installed here in the U.S. creates 44 years of full-time employment over its lifetime. Each project means tens of millions of dollars flow to rural areas through jobs, taxes, and lease payments to farmers and ranchers, enriching those families and communities.”
As part of the day’s release, Minnesota Republican Representative Tom Emmer sent AWEA a letter of support, saying “Wind power is a critical component of an all-of-the-above energy approach focused on reducing consumer costs, furthering advances in renewable technologies, and moving our country closer to total energy independence. I will continue to support policies that further a comprehensive approach to improve our country’s energy outlook and ensure that American wind production remains a key component of that strategy.”
You can watch one of the resulting news clips provided by NBC Minnesota affiliate KARE below: