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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Estimated job numbers from Clean Line are as unreliable as the wind. Clean Line has three projects in the works. Those projects are different distances and different topography. Yet CL used the same job numbers when pushing all three projects. They said each project would create 5000 temporary jobs and 500 permanent jobs. Really? The same number of jobs, regardless of distance or conditions?

Comment by Joel Dyer on February 24, 2015 8:35 am

The numbers reported here are from the Department of Energy, not Clean Line.

Comment by Simon Mahan on February 24, 2015 10:04 am

Mr. Mahan, PROVE your numbers. DOE, Clean Line nor you can prove your numbers nor the truth to the facts you state. PROVE those numbers and facts !

Comment by J Harry on February 24, 2015 11:11 am

I little over 100 permanent jobs does not equal ‘tens of thousands’ . Restaurants and Motels and even General Cable won’t hire more people, they will just have more work for two years. This is a pitiful excuse for taking private land from citizens and giving it to a small group of venture capitalist to make money for themselves on under the disguise of clean energy.

I am very disappointed to read this article on a clean energy blog because you of all people should have a better grasp on the renewable energy technologies emerging that are far better than 720 mile over head transmission! What is truly NEW and GREEN is HVDC buried in existing right of ways. What is truly new and green is LOCAL generation and distribution not industrializing the plains with soon to be obsolete wind farms. Projects like this will interfere with genuine progress in renewable technology.

The negative impact on the environment of this project far out weighs any gain in getting wind online. This is Ethanol all over again, a net negative!

Wind should be utilized but wisely. All Clean Line’s plans are a fool’s errand for the environment and destruction of private property and the environment in it’s path. This is NOT progress! These power lines can’t and won’t be dedicated to wind power. REAL utilities are upgrading the grid and adding wind to it in a responsible manner. These projects are irresponsible.
Shame on you for supporting them.

Comment by AR Citizen on February 24, 2015 11:15 am

I heard the General Cable rep. speak and he only talked about 2 years of work, he didn’t mention one single new job. You’d think if they planned to hire they would be sure to mention that.

Comment by AR Citizen on February 24, 2015 11:19 am

The job figures are as reported by the Department of Energy using their models and methodologies based on empirical data. Specifically, wind turbine job creation estimates are based off of the Jobs and Economic Development Index model, created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. As stated in the blog, “Job creation estimates are included in the socioeconomic impacts portions of the EIS.” I also included a hyperlink to that section, but here it is again:

Comment by Simon Mahan on February 24, 2015 2:50 pm

Low cost wind power can displace dirty power plants right now; however, if wind power costs are substantially increased (perhaps by requiring power lines to be buried), utility companies will not purchase wind power and we will remain heavily dependent on dirty power plants. The Environmental Impact Statement specifically looked at loading the HVDC project with 4,550 megawatts of wind power and the environmental benefits of that amount of wind power. With that much wind power on the line, there’d be little to no additional space for any other source of power. The Optima Converter station essentially guarantees the only power source that will be loaded on the lines will have to come from the western panhandle of Oklahoma and will have to be extremely low cost – that means wind power. Utility companies that are currently purchasing wind energy, including many throughout the south, rely on already existing, AC, overhead power lines; but routes over those existing lines are becoming more rare, thus the need for additional transmission.

Comment by Simon Mahan on February 24, 2015 3:01 pm

The HVDC transmission project may be an investment of approximately $2 billion, with the corresponding wind turbines representing approximately another $7-8 billion investment. The General Cable portion may represent at least $100 million. There will certainly be thousands and thousands of jobs created, as shown by the Department of Energy analysis.

Comment by Simon Mahan on February 24, 2015 3:56 pm

The other day we drove by and took photos of some of the wind turbines from the old Enron wind turbine project. About ten years ago they stopped making new parts for them so the towers just stand with no blades. No one has “decommissioned” them and that area will no longer be useful for anything until someone invests a lot of money to take the towers down and dig up the concrete footings.
I also spoke to a friend whose family had had one on their property. The turbines kept switching owners and each time the landowner’s dividend would decrease.
Many of Clean Line’s people worked for Enron. Why would we trust them again? We don’t need another dose of rendering our land useless with junk that does not make the profit that it originally claimed. Small wind farms are going broke with liens being set up against landowners. It seems like only large corporations win when running these “farms” and that the landowners lose time and again.

Comment by Janna Swanson on February 25, 2015 8:49 am

Thank you Janna for reading our blog. I’d like to know which wind farm you toured, would you provide that information? Enron collapsed nearly fifteen years ago, many things have changed, including better assurances for landowners that the turbines will be decommissioned or repowered at the end of their useful lives. There is value in wind turbines after their useful lives – most of the materials within a wind turbine are recyclable (particularly steel and electronic components) and have value. Here’s a recent example: Google will be purchasing wind power from a re-powered site in California. “About 770 old turbines from the 1980s will be replaced this year by 48 new machines producing twice as much energy, enough to power Google’s corporate campus in Mountain View with 100 percent renewable power.”

Comment by Simon Mahan on February 25, 2015 11:44 am

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Comment by Simon Mahan on February 26, 2015 10:59 am

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