Wind Energy Creates Good Jobs and Green Jobs in the Southeast

Last week, I presented on wind energy at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Atlanta hosted by the Blue Green Alliance. The Southeast isn’t well known as a bastion for wind farms; however, there are plenty of good, green jobs and companies that have set up shop in the region to serve the wind industry nationally and internationally. Companies in our region are involved manufacturing fiberglass for turbine blades (PPG, North Carolina), steel towers (World Tower Co., Kentucky), gearboxes (ZF, Georgia) and a slew of other components (including slew rings by IMO, South Carolina) and services for the wind industry. Sure, we face some obstacles to building wind farms here (such as outmoded information and a lack of strong renewable energy policies), but some recent events suggest our region is primed for wind energy.

Wind turbine component manufacturing is popular in the Southeast - each red dot is a company working in the wind industry; Source: AWEA

Take for example the efforts by Clean Line Energy to connect the windy Plains states to Tennessee via a high voltage direct current transmission line. Clean Line’s efforts may connect up to 7,000 megawatts of wind energy to the Southeast at a cost of around 5.5-6.0 cents per kilowatt hour according to the company. Another company, Pattern Energy, is developing a transmission line to connect up to 3,000 megawatts of wind energy from Texas to Mississippi.

Ultimately, our utilities throughout the region would need to purchase wind energy from these transmission lines for us to get any benefit from them. Utilities, like Alabama Power, Tennessee Valley Authority and Southwestern Electric have recently purchased large chunks of wind energy from other parts of the country – this suggests some of our utilities are less hesitant about renewable energy than they have been in the past.

But purchasing wind energy from other regions isn’t our only option in the Southeast. While  Tennessee is the only state in the Southeast with an operating wind farm, wind energy projects have been proposed or investigated in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Small wind turbines have been operating throughout the Southeast for a while, but these types of turbines have been popping up with increasing regularity in South Carolina.

This momentum is important to maintain. That’s why the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy works to promote wind energy at the local, state and federal government levels. Just last week, the City of Tybee Island in Georgia passed a resolution to promote wind energy. These types of efforts are vital to wind energy development.

Hopefully by next year’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference, we’ll have some more good news to report!

If you’d like to keep the momentum going, sign SACE’s petition to promote wind energy

Be sure to attend the Southeast Coastal Wind Energy Conference in Charlotte on March 8/9 and also the American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER 2012 in Atlanta on June 3-6.

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