First quarter highlights: A Texas-sized amount of wind power in the pipeline

We’ve finished tallying the numbers, and here’s what they show: the U.S. wind industry just had its best first quarter in eight years.

That means more American jobs, more low-cost electricity made right here at home, and an industry ready to continue growing.

First quarter heights not reached since 2009

In the first quarter of 2017, 908 new wind turbines, representing 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity, came online. With these additions, the U.S. now has enough installed wind capacity to power 25 million American homes.

That activity creates huge opportunities for U.S. workers.

Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan. So the 908 turbines brought online in 2017’s first three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers.

We can see this play out in Manitowoc, Wis. where Melissa Peters helps build wind towers for Broadwind Towers:

“I worked my way up the ladder. You learn a trade, you get good at it,” she said. “My boss eventually stepped down, and I followed right in his footsteps. And I see potential in some of my guys, maybe they’ll take my place someday.”

Or in the West Texas plains, where Scott Creech found a wind power career that let him support his family after multiple layoffs from previous jobs:

“When you’re faced with unemployment, or having a job, it’s a great blessing,” he said. “The wind industry has created at least 70 good, permanent jobs out here in this rural part of the Texas Panhandle, where there’s not a whole lot of opportunity, and that’s a big deal.”

Overall, more than 100,000 U.S. workers have wind jobs today, across all 50 states. That includes 25,000 manufacturing jobs at over 500 factories.

And wind power is doing one of the hardest things in America: creating new factory jobs. There will be another 8,000 wind factory jobs by the end of President Trump’s first term.

Wind power returns to the Southeast

In another first quarter highlight, North Carolina became the 41st state with an operating utility-scale wind farm when Avangrid Renewables’ Amazon wind farm came online. This was the first project built in the Southeast in more than a decade.

Technological improvements that let wind turbines reach stronger, steadier winds made this possible, when just a few years ago the project would not have been feasible. These same turbine advances have helped drive wind’s costs down by two-thirds in seven years, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in many parts of the country and cost-competitive in many more.

North Carolinians are already seeing the benefits of wind coming to their communities:

“Farms have been growing corn, soybeans, and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward,” said Horace Pritchard, one of nearly 60 landowners associated with the North Carolina project. “We’re just adding another locally-grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access. So it’s a great fit here.”

Horace’s experience mirrors those of rural communities across the country.

Wind brings investment into rural America like no other industry, paying $245 million in lease payments to farmers and ranchers for hosting turbines in 2016 alone. That’s on top of huge increases wind farms bring to local tax revenues, which help pay teacher salaries and build new hospitals.

We’ll continue hearing more of these positive stories in the years ahead. Currently, nearly 21,000 MW of new wind capacity are under construction or in advanced development. That is close to the amount of wind power built in Texas to date, by far the country’s wind leader.

American wind power kept its promises to continue creating jobs, investing in rural communities and creating low-cost, reliable electricity during 2017’s first quarter. We expect no change in the months and years to come — wind works for America today, tomorrow and far into the future.

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