Wind Power Transmission Project Could Create Tens of Thousands of Jobs

Transmission power cable from General Cable

Transmission power cable from General Cable

This blog is part of a series reviewing the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project. Other blogs in the series are available here.

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project would connect up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power capacity to the southeast. As part of the federal Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement review, the DOE estimates the socioeconomic impacts of the proposed 720-mile high voltage direct current transmission project. Job creation estimates are included in the socioeconomic impacts portions of the EIS. Based on the EIS jobs estimates, lifetime job estimates may conservatively approach tens of thousands of new jobs for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project and the wind facilities it enables.

Job creation and other impacts associated with the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project are generally broken down into the six separate parts of the project. Based on the EIS, the six parts from west to east would support the following total jobs:

  • Wind Development Zones (Oklahoma/Texas) – Up to 9,910 total temporary jobs, annually for two years (during construction)
  • Alternating Current (AC) Collection System (Oklahoma/Texas) – 1,178 total temporary jobs
  • Oklahoma Converter Station (Oklahoma) – 681 total temporary jobs, plus 54 permanent annual jobs (for the life of the project)
  • HVDC Transmission Line (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee) – 3,838 total temporary jobs
  • Arkansas Converter Station (Arkansas) – 244 total temporary jobs, plus 37 permanent annual jobs (for the life of the project)
  • Tennessee Converter Station (Tennessee) – 730 total temporary jobs, plus 39 permanent annual jobs (for the life of the project)

While it may be tempting to add all of these job figures up and come up with a final tally, to do so would miss a few key factors. Throughout the EIS methodology, it is unclear how the Department of Energy incorporated manufacturing (supply chain) jobs. Transmission components are expected to be manufactured in Oklahoma and Arkansas, while wind turbine component manufacturing is spread around the country. Further, the Clean Line project is expected to have a useful life of approximately 80 years, and permanent jobs will continue for the lifetime of the project. Complicating the matter, wind farms typically have lifespans of 20-25 years, suggesting a series of 3 to 4 construction/decommissioning efforts for wind turbines over the lifetime of the Clean Line project. Additionally, the Department of Energy states that the jobs associated with wind turbine construction “are annual estimates and assume that construction would be spread evenly over 2 years”, indicating the Wind Development Zone job figures need to be doubled. One final consideration, also not calculated by the Department of Energy, would be the regional job growth caused by extremely low-cost wind power and renewable energy diversification. As companies with corporate social responsibility requirements begin to base manufacturing decisions on renewable energy availability, and low cost predictable energy prices, the presence of wind power generation can be a strong selling point for states.

Conservatively, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project would support tens of thousands of high quality jobs over the life of the project. Supporting the Plains and Eastern Clean Line high voltage direct current transmission project would provide job benefits to the southeast, and potentially beyond.

The Department of Energy is taking public comment on the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project until March 19th, 2015. If, after reading this blog, you would like to submit a public comment supporting the project, click here.

This blog is part of a series reviewing the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project (PECLseries).

For Further Discussion about Jobs…

Jobs are generally broken up into construction jobs (temporary) or maintenance and operations jobs (long-term). As with other renewable energy projects, Clean Line’s project is anticipated to have its greatest jobs impact during the construction phase, with many fewer jobs for maintenance and operations. These jobs are generally considered “direct” jobs (such as erecting a wind turbine or constructing a converter station). Direct jobs create or support “induced” jobs, jobs usually associated with service industries: restaurants, hotels and the like. Additional jobs include supply chain jobs – wind turbines are manufactured predominately out of steel (tower), fiberglass (blades), concrete (foundation) and a bevy of electrical components. About 70% of wind turbine components are manufactured here in the United States. Clean Line has signed an agreement with General Cable for up to 25 million conductor feet of transmission line to be manufactured in Malvern, Arkansas. Pelco Structural LLC in Oklahoma will be providing tubular steel transmission structures (towers). Fluor Corporation, through its subcontractor Pike Electric Corporation, will provide full engineering, procurement and construction services.

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