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The wind industry is a whole lot more than meets the eye. Behind those turbine towers serenely dotting the skyline is the bustle of manufacturing, construction, and maintenance work which goes into building and operating them. Throughout the Great Plains’ wind corridor, these jobs are helping revitalize small towns that have been hurt economically by the migration of traditional kinds of manufacturing overseas.  Nowhere is this process more noticeably transformative than in the state of Iowa, where the manufacturing of turbines and nacelles (the box on the turbine which contains the generator), account for 2,300 jobs.

Iowa has a rich history of manufacturing in areas that you might expect for such an agricultural powerhouse—its specialties  included farm equipment and food processing machinery. It also had plants devoted to products such as printing presses and coal trucks. This history meant that even though the state had to endure manufacturing slowdowns and concurrent job losses over the past 30 years, it always possessed human capital with knowledge of how to build things.  Components of wind turbines, such as blades which can weigh up to 15,000 lbs, fit into the same class of heavy machinery as much farm equipment. Thus, Iowa was in a great position to supply its wind industry with parts as homegrown as its corn.

Many wind manufacturing companies have chosen to locate in Iowa, including industry giants such as Germany’s Siemens and Spains’ Acciona.  This makes sense given the state’s abundant wind resources and reputation for being on the progressive edge of wind development. Iowa is known for passing one of the country’s first Renewable Energy Standards back in the day when this type of legislation wasn’t yet the norm. The state also offers tax incentives for wind companies who build plants there. All of this has resulted in small town success stories such as those profiled here and here.

The growth of wind manufacturing in Iowa makes it an interesting model for the wind industry as a whole. For one thing, it proves that wind has grown out of any possible classification as a “niche” industry. It powers job growth not just in manufacturing but also in the technical field (installing turbines) and the development field (planning wind farms). Although each field is highly specialized, Iowa shows that when brought together, these jobs can provide a dynamic boost across the whole economy.

Finally, Iowa’s prowess in all things wind is leading to some unforeseen benefits. First, the state has become a leader in wind research and education. Programs at the state’s colleges which train students to become wind technicians consistently find employers swooping in to hire students before they even graduate, and Iowa State recently established a Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory to focus on improving productivity and reducing costs at turbine factories. Also, another sign that Iowa’s proactive stance on renewable energy is paying off came July 20th when Google inked a 20-year contract to purchase 114MW of power from a wind farm in Story County.

All of this shows that wind energy’s benefits are constituted not just in the electricity it produces but also in the activity behind the scenes. Iowa (which produces a higher percentage of its energy from wind than any other state) is a great example of wind having a far-reaching positive impact on a region.


National Wind Assessments’ own, Debbie Jacklitch-Kuiken, continues to gain kudos from the engineering industry for her great work in the field of wind energy. The National Engineers Week Foundation, a formal coalition of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations and government agencies, nominated Jacklitch-Kuiken as one of its “New Faces of Engineering” as part of National Engineers Week celebrated from February 14th-February 20th, 2010.

The New Faces program highlights the unique and interesting work of young engineers, recognizing their accomplishments in their field and the resulting impact on society.  The Foundation’s sponsoring societies nominated young working engineers from among their membership. The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) submitted Jacklitch-Kuiken’s nomination to the foundation.

Jackltich-Kuiken is an asset to  National Wind Assessments’ team with her dual qualifications as a meteorologist and mechanical engineer.  She brings an insightful and comprehensive approach to the assessment, design, installation and operation of wind energy systems for National Wind Assessments.

Jacklitch-Kuiken is not only an advocate for the engineering profession, but also for women’s advancement in the sciences.

Jacklitch-Kuiken actively participates in the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”, sponsored by the foundation, by visiting local schools, teaching girls about what it is like to be an engineer. Currently only 20 percent of engineering undergraduates are women. Only ten percent of the engineering workforce are women.

The National Engineers Week Foundation’s overall goal is to ensure that more people are educated and working in the engineering profession. They promote pre-college literacy in math and science to help increase young people’s understanding and interest in engineering and technology careers.

Lots of engineering jobs exist in the growing field of wind energy. A study released by the RES Alliance for Jobs, found that if passed, a 25% by 2025 National Renewable Electricity Standard would support an additional 274,000 renewable energy jobs. Currently, the wind industry supports just over 85,000 jobs. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is helping advocate for Congress to pass a 25% by 2025 National RES this session. This standard  would require all  U.S. states to have 25% of their energy come from renewable sources by year 2025. Learn how you can help support this effort!

AWEA’s Into the Wind blog recently linked a South Dakota Public Radio story about the town of Howard, SD. After 90 years of declining population, the town has grown in recent years thanks in part to a turbine blade manufacturing plant. This is a great example of the positive effect that green energy infrastructure can have on a local community.

Howard is banking on green jobs and green energy, and it’s working. More than 230 new jobs have come to Howard this decade. The climate legislation in congress could create even more green jobs in places like Howard. It’s good news for Randy Parry.

[…] Parry calls South Dakota the Saudi Arabia of wind. He says the state is ripe for a boom in wind energy, but he says it all hinges on the creation of new transmission lines needed to get the power to market. Parry hopes congress will help fund this new electric grid in this upcoming climate bill.

National Wind has written extensively in the past about the need for both an upgraded electric transmission grid and a comprehensive bill to combat global climate change.

Listen to the story here:

To read the story in its entirety, visit South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s website.

The entire nation is experiencing hard economic times resulting in widespread job loss. The unemployment rate reached a 25-year high in March 2009, an astounding 8.5 percent. This brings the net total of eliminated jobs to 663,000 and nearly all economists expect the job cuts to continue for much of the year. Since the recession began in December 2007, the net total job loss has reached 5.1 million, 2/3 of which were in the last 5 months. Even more employees have been forced to work part time for economic reasons.

As government and businesses look toward shaping a stronger economic future, there is a strong emphasis on “green-collar jobs” in the emerging green energy sector. President Obama is dedicated to creating 5 million green-collar jobs in the next decade. The economic stimulus package passed in February is estimated to create 3.6 million of these jobs by 2010.

Given the outlook on millions of new jobs in the sector, countless unemployed workers hit hard by the financial crisis are choosing to head back to the classroom to hone their skills and many are opting for an education in the green energy sector.

In the wind industry, the demand for highly skilled workers who can build and service wind turbines is increasing. However, the workforce needs to be prepared and colleges are modernizing curricula and creating wind turbine technology training programs to meet the growing demand.

Although educational opportunities for turbine technician technicians are offered in 22 states, Iowa Lakes Community College, in Estherville, Iowa, has one of the most well-recognized wind turbine technology programs in the country. Iowa Lakes Community College offers a program in Wind Energy & Turbine Technology. This 2-year program is the first of its kind in Iowa to train students on the construction, operation and maintenance of wind turbines. Graduates enter the job market with the necessary qualifications for many entry-level wind turbine technician positions. Exceptions graduates may also possess the skills and educational background to become wind plant operators and supervisors.

To provide the further resources to aid students’ success in the program, the campus expanded by developing a $550,000 and 6,200 square foot addition to provide more space in the Sustainable Energy Education Center/Wind Energy building on the Estherville campus. “The new addition will serve as a model for consumers and the industry, allowing Iowa Lakes to accept 32 additional freshmen students into this ever-popular program,” said Valerie Newhouse, College President.

Cero Coso Community College in California, meanwhile, is one of the few colleges to offer a short-term “Wind Technician Boot Camp.” The 8-week program is offered at the college in the Eastern Sierra region of Southern California. The program prepares students through a wide variety of courses in turbine engineering, safety and prevention, and by providing resume and job interview preparation. Students graduating from this program will receive an Energy Technician Certificate.

For more information on other wind energy training programs across the country, including locations, enrollment opportunities, and course specifics, see

20% wind energy by 2030. According to the Department of Energy and the American Wind Energy Association, this staggering yet inspiring number is quite feasible. Not only would harnessing 20% of our energy from wind by 2030 mean a much cleaner environment, but it would also mean tremendous job growth. The US Department of Energy’s “20% wind energy by 2030” report finds if wind represented a fifth of America’s wind supply, over half a million domestic jobs could be created.

The wind industry creates jobs in manufacturing, construction, transportation, legal, financial, safety, and maintenance.

The manufacturing jobs created are varied and diverse. Every 1000 MW of wind power developed creates a potential for 3000 jobs in manufacturing, 700 jobs in installation and 600 in operations and maintenance according to a study conducted by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP). A wind turbine’s four main components (the tower, rotor, nacelle and controls, gearbox and drive train, and generator and power elextronics) are divided into 20 sub-components. Because each sub-component requires a vast level of technical expertise to manufacture, separate facilities are utilized to complete the job. This creates a variety of manufacturing jobs in the areas of measuring and controlling devices, ball and roller bearings, iron and steel fabrication, power transmission equipment, industrial commercial fans and blowers, printed circuits and electronics assemblies, plastics and rubber products and motors and generators.

Also, wind energy technicians are needed to assist with the construction and upkeep of turbines while wind research specialists are needed to use climatology to assess wind potential in various locations.

Direct wind industry job growth would also increase jobs in related industries. For instance, large-load transportation specialists are needed to transport the turbines from the manufacturing facility to the wind farm, while lawyers are needed to deal with legal fees and regulations associated with the turbines.

The largest number of jobs can be expected to occur in Texas, California, and the Great Lakes region where it is estimated that by 2030 30,000+ jobs a year will be created. Furthermore, with policy initiatives for wind in America becoming more stable and abundant in recent years, more and more companies are choosing to locate domestically instead of overseas. In the past two years, domestic wind manufacturing has doubled and over 50 new or expanded wind energy manufacturing plants have opened.

What’s especially encouraging about America’s wind industry growth is its capability to create more jobs than traditional energy sources.

The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California in Berkeley reports that the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per megawatt of power installed, per unit of energy produced, and per dollar of investment, than the fossil fuel-based energy sector.

How’s that for an argument to increase wind energy development in a time of economic downturn?

With a new year upon us, we reflect on the remarkable growth of the wind industry in 2008. The U.S. wind energy industry surpassed all previous records when it installed 8,358 megawatts (MW) of wind energy. This enormous increase boosted the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50%, which invested nearly $17 billion into the United States economy. Furthermore, the wind projects completed in 2008 accounted for a reduction of nearly 44 million tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to taking over 7 million cars off of the road. Wind energy generating capacity in the United States now amounts to an astounding 25,170 MW and produces enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 7 million households! It also helps build up our national energy supply with a clean, domestic source of energy.

The state leaders in wind energy generating capacity are ever shifting. Iowa, with 2,790 MW installed, now exceeds California with 2,517 MW. Currently, the top 5 states in terms of installed capacity are now Texas (7,116 MW), Iowa (2,790 MW), California (2,518 MW), Minnesota (1,752 MW), and Washington (1,375 MW). Colorado and Oregon are following close behind, both with over 1,000 MW in of capacity installed.

While the wind industry has an uncertain year ahead due to the nation’s financial situation, it is making significant contributions to the state of the economy. Approximately 85,000 people are employed in the wind industry, which is an increase of 35,000 wind industry jobs in the past year. These jobs are as wide-ranging as turbine component manufacturing, construction and installation, operations and maintenance, legal and marketing services, and many more. Turbine manufacturing jobs witnessed a growth spurt in 2008 as several wind turbine component manufacturing companies opened new production facilities across the country. U.S.-based turbine manufacturing facilities have grown by over 20% since 2005. This resulted in 70 new or announced facilities in the past 2 years and 13,000 new jobs in 2008 alone.

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