A representative of the American Wind Energy Association says the business case for wind energy in Indiana is strong. The recently-released Wind Powers America Annual Report 2019 from the AWEA says wind-supported jobs in the Hoosier state more than doubled last year and Indiana also ranks in the top five for wind energy employment throughout the country. Jeff Danielson, central states director for the AWEA, says the growth in Indiana can be attributed, in part, to the “strong resources” the state has, especially through central Indiana.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Danielson said the demand for wind energy and clean energy is strong, which was reflected in the year-over-year numbers.
“AWEA actually updated its member surveys and their responses and how we calculated the jobs and it showed the jobs now in Indiana are now between 6,000-7,000 wind energy jobs, which would include wind turbine technicians, which is the second-fastest growing career in the United States, second to solar installers. It would also include the manufacturing, so the supply chain,” said Danielson.
The number of jobs in 2019 is up from 2,000-3,000 jobs in 2018. Danielson noted that because of the update to the AWEA’s analysis, some of the newly-counted jobs may have already been there but had not previously been counted.
The report says Indiana has more than 1,400 megawatts of wind energy under construction or in advanced development. That is combined with 2,300 megawatts that are already installed. In 2019, wind energy provided 6% of all in-state electricity, according to the AWEA.
Danielson says the overall growth in wind energy nationwide is due to several factors, including utilities adding wind to their integrated resource plans and a dramatic reduction in costs for wind energy technologies. He says just last year, wind energy became the cheapest source of new energy on the grid.
“The other big factor, particularly for Indiana, is it isn’t just price. The utilities are also moving away from coal because of the environmental benefits but also the out-year costs of generating energy through coal and so all of those factors combine to make wind energy really attractive for consumers, whether they be individuals who want that type of energy or utilities who, at utility scale, provide that service to their customers.”
The report says wind energy grew by 14% over the previous year, powering nearly 570,000 Hoosier homes. Danielson says the ability to grow even further is there, but there are obstacles to that growth in Indiana.
“The challenge that we’re facing in Indiana is you have nearly 30 counties who have passed restrictive ordinances on the ability to permit and cite wind and some of them are restrictive; others are outright moratoriums. So really, the limiter of growth going forward in Indiana is the uncertainty around whether those investments can be made and built.”
Danielson says the numbers from the report obviously come from before the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting the state and country. He says the pandemic has had a marked effect on wind energy in Indiana, despite the wind energy workforce being considered essential.
“COVID restrictions obviously changed some of the ways in which the work was done (with) more safety precautions and personal protective equipment…and so that created some new challenges. Going forward, it will be the supply chain impacts on our member companies. The supply chain for wind energy is global; Indiana has 15 manufacturing facilities related to wind energy located in the state. So post-COVID, will we be able to have as robust a supply chain with the COVID slowdown in the overall economy, which did affect wind energy? Going forward, can we build a more robust supply chain inside the United States that would serve us well in terms of just-in-time manufacturing and being able to create those energy projects here in the United States?”
Danielson says the hope is the slowdown caused by the pandemic will only be a temporary pause.
Danielson says the demand for wind energy and clean energy is strong, which was reflected in the year-over-year numbers.
Danielson says the COVID-19 pandemic has had a marked effect on wind energy in Indiana, despite the wind energy workforce being considered essential.