Jobs Gained AND Jobs Lost
Proponents of wind energy conversion systems have touted the employment opportunities that result from bringing these industrial installations to a community. We will take a look at some of the actual numbers of jobs that result after an installation, using the O’Brien County, Iowa wind installation as an example. These numbers were taken from accounts in Iowa newspapers, with a summary article from 2015 (Flaugh, 2015).
The O’Brien installations are 318 turbines, with a total of 760 Megawatt (MW) capability, stretching over 120,000 acres. It is the largest concentration of wind turbines in Iowa. Initial development was by MidAmerican, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway which is owned by Warren Buffet; a second installation was done by Invenergy. These are the known employment figures from that installation:
• Initial construction approximately 300 jobs
• After construction was completed 30 full time jobs remained
• Average salary is $69,000 annually
Additional examples are on the U.S, Department of Energy’s website list of other wind installation ratings and resulting job numbers. These installations, shown to the right, are spread across the country and can be used for a nationwide comparison.
Granite Reliable- Coos County, New Hampshire99MW- 198 initial construction jobs- 6 permanent jobs
Kahuka – Kahuka, Hawaii
30 MW- 200 initial construction jobs – 6 permanent jobs
Record Hill- Record Hill, Maine
51 MW – 200 initial construction jobs – 8 permanent jobs
Sheppards Flat- Gilliam & Morrow Counties, Oregon (one of the world’s largest wind installations)
845 MW- 400 initial construction jobs – 45 permanent jobs
Earlier this year, Ameren announced plans to build a 400 MW wind energy conversion installation (High Prairie Wind Farm) at Kirksville, Missouri. Plans call for 175 450-foot tall turbines. Ameren estimates the project will create several hundred construction jobs over a two-year period and about 20 full time jobs after completion (Salter, 2018).
The project discussed for Monroe County is to be a 200 MW installation. Looking at the employment numbers on these existing and proposed installations, it would be safe to say that the Monroe County project would likely create a couple hundred construction jobs, and approximately 10-12 full time jobs may result after construction. Most of the projects had about a two-year construction phase, so of course we would see a bump in the local economy for a few years. It is unknown if local construction crews would be used or travelers, most likely a combination of both.
Turbines are monitored electronically from a central office, 24 hours a day. When a problem is detected, wind technicians travel to the worksite and make the repairs. Typical maintenance includes inspecting components and lubricating parts. For turbines that operate year round, routine maintenance may occur one to three times a year. If we use the average salary of the O’Brien County example and assume the creation of 10-12 full time jobs the project could create approximately $750,000 annually in combined salaries. It should be noted that the full time employment numbers would include maintenance, tech support and administrative support. Again, assuming these people would live in Monroe County they would pay property taxes, shop in the bi-state area (preferably in the county) as well as use the county's services and schools.
The Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) models are often used to cite the number and benefits of “Green Jobs” created by projects like the proposed wind energy conversion facility discussed for Monroe County. However, JEDI only looks at the positive impacts of a project and assumes that money spent is always beneficial.
But that’s a one-sided look and tells only a part of the story. At this point let’s look at the Baldwin Power Station. Let us compare the assumed Monroe County wind facility's employment numbers to the number of displaced plant workers (as the result of Unit #3 closure) at the Baldwin Power Station (Vistra Energy) as well as the cause of job loss.
Although the Baldwin Plant is in Randolph County, IL, it still has a large effect on Monroe County, as there are a number of displaced employees as well as remaining employees who live and do business in Monroe County. The Baldwin Plant has reduced its workforce from 254 employees down to today's figure of 148, a loss of 106 good jobs with an average salary of about $75,000 annually.
The shutdown and associated impacts of Unit #3 (625 MW) at Baldwin was the result mainly of the Prairie State Power plant coming online. This caused significant congestion on the 345 KV transmission lines running between the Baldwin plant, Prairie State and the Ameren Rush Island plant across the river in Missouri from Monroe County. The congestion dramatically reduced the power price that Baldwin was getting for power, making it unprofitable. This is the same transmission line that the Monroe County project expects to tap into. This project will do nothing but once again increase the congestion on this transmission line.
Flaugh, Loren G., 2015. Invenergy Plans 2nd O’Brien County Wind Farm Cherokee Chronicle Times, July 6, 2015.
Salter, James, 2018. Associated Press, May 21, 2018.
Job Gains AND Job Losses
The Illinois Power Agency Act (enacted Aug. 2007) has been revised to require large investor owned utilities (EUs) and alternative retail electric suppliers (ARES) to source 25% of eligible retail electric sales from renewable energy by 2025; it will only lead to more congestion.
The shutdown of Baldwin Unit #3 resulted in a budget reduction of nearly $40 million dollars, mostly in payroll, and reduced property taxes in Randolph County by $1 million dollars. The loss of this amount of payroll dollars has far reaching effects as it trickles through the county at the local, state and even federal levels. The plant itself, which still has 2 remaining units (each at 600 MW), has had to make severe cuts in its capital budget program, delaying overhauls and repairs to these remaining units. These overhauls usually last several months, which can bring in hundreds of additional construction workers and local services. Even with the cuts, the plant is on a thin margin for profitability right now. More pressure on profits (as created by more congestion) will seriously jeopardize the remaining workforce and tax base, which the Baldwin Plant provides.
Job gains can cause job losses.
There are many competing factors to be considered regarding a Monroe County wind energy conversion facility. This argument against the wind project is driven by what can be seen as a large negative impact to the long term local economy, it may provide some short term benefit to Monroe County, but at a large cost to our neighbor Randolph County as well as our surrounding communities and potentially to Monroe County itself.