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Wind industry jobs dwindle fast after construction

In employment terms, wind farms are large construction projects. Most of the jobs are temporary. Permanent jobs that might be considered wholly wind energy related are few in number. Greg Efthimiou, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said peak employment during construction at the Campbell Hill project near Casper is expected to be about 150 workers. The company will erect 66, 1.5-megawatt General Electric wind turbines in the Cole Creek drainage.

In employment terms, wind farms are large construction projects. Most of the jobs are temporary.

Permanent jobs that might be considered wholly wind energy related are few in number.

Greg Efthimiou, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said peak employment during construction at the Campbell Hill project near Casper is expected to be about 150 workers. The company will erect 66, 1.5-megawatt General Electric wind turbines in the Cole Creek drainage.

Construction includes site survey work, environmental survey work, road grading and preparation, turbine foundation work, turbine assembly work, cabling, power line assembly, power interconnection, operations and maintenance building construction, and turbine commissioning.

Once complete, the wind farm is expected to employ eight to 10 workers full time.

Construction employment at Rocky Mountain Power's Glenrock, Rolling Hills and Glenrock III wind farms peaked at about 325 workers, according to spokesman Jeff Hymas. Erecting the wind turbines meant jobs in such familiar crafts as laborers, crane operators, electricians, truck drivers and engineers. Wages in such occupations generally range between $10 and $30 per hour.

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In employment terms, wind farms are large construction projects. Most of the jobs are temporary.

Permanent jobs that might be considered wholly wind energy related are few in number.

Greg Efthimiou, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said peak employment during construction at the Campbell Hill project near Casper is expected to be about 150 workers. The company will erect 66, 1.5-megawatt General Electric wind turbines in the Cole Creek drainage.

Construction includes site survey work, environmental survey work, road grading and preparation, turbine foundation work, turbine assembly work, cabling, power line assembly, power interconnection, operations and maintenance building construction, and turbine commissioning.

Once complete, the wind farm is expected to employ eight to 10 workers full time.

Construction employment at Rocky Mountain Power's Glenrock, Rolling Hills and Glenrock III wind farms peaked at about 325 workers, according to spokesman Jeff Hymas. Erecting the wind turbines meant jobs in such familiar crafts as laborers, crane operators, electricians, truck drivers and engineers. Wages in such occupations generally range between $10 and $30 per hour.

About 15 permanent on-site workers are need for operations and maintenance of the wind farm. Rocky Mountain Power has a contract with enXco to that end.

Since the permanent workers at wind farms are engaged solely in wind energy activities, these jobs can be considered "green." Federal and state officials are trying to figure out how to categorize the rest. If an electrician works on a wind turbine only during the time it is being erected, can this be considered a "green" job, or even a wind energy job?

Officials say without a consensus on how such jobs should be classified, arriving at solid "green energy" employment figures including wind projects is problematic.

Tom Gallagher, manager of the Wyoming Department of Employment's Research and Planning Section, said one approach might be to think about jobs in terms of function, recognizing that only a few jobs are truly green.

"You may perform a green function in 20 percent of your job, and the other 80 percent is what you'd usually do," he said.

In a recent report, the Pew Charitable Trust did attempt a count of green jobs on a state-by-state basis, but it has no data available specifically on wind energy jobs in Wyoming.

Wind-turbine manufacturing could result in large numbers of permanent jobs clearly related to the wind energy industry.

An analysis conducted by Business Facility Planning Consultants of Norcross, Ga., for the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance identified competitive advantages Casper might have in manufacturing turbines of all sorts.

But Robert Barnes, CAEDA's president and CEO, said Natrona County is hampered by a lack of buildings large enough to build and service wind turbines.

"The challenge is simply getting the infrastructure in place that will allow a company to quick-start," he said.

Barnes said wind projects often are driven by tax incentives. At a recent gathering, he said a Duke Energy manager reported being under pressure to have a wind farm producing by the end of December "because the company needs the tax credits in this tax year."

Against such deadlines, allowing long lead-times for building construction simply isn't an option.

Another factor is the national recession. Wind turbine companies in other states, like North Dakota and Arkansas, have been laying people off, not adding to payrolls.

Megan Graham, an electronics instructor at Casper College, said the school's new renewable energy technology program will focus initially on training wind technicians, but also include solar and thermal energy components.

She said entry-level wages for wind technicians are generally in the $20-per-hour range.

"But these are not easy, either," she said. "We talk about green jobs, and everyone thinks they're kind of cool, but really they're an industrial maintenance job. This is no different than working in a power plant or a gas plant. These are maintenance jobs."


Source: http://www.trib.com/article...

JUL 29 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21469-wind-industry-jobs-dwindle-fast-after-construction
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