North Dakota Leads the Nation in Wind Energy Jobs Per Capita
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today reinforced the need to support a robust wind industry as part of building and growing an all-of-the-above energy strategy during her visit to LM Wind Manufacturing, which employs about 1,025 people in Grand Forks.
Heitkamp has been a champion of policies that encourage the expansion of wind energy projects in North Dakota, and was instrumental in passing a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) to support wind energy development in December 2015. Prior to her work to secure lasting PTC support, hundreds of wind energy workers were laid off nationwide, including in North Dakota. Now that more certainty has been restored across the industry, in part due to her legislative work, demand for wind-energy jobs has been booming – LM Wind added nearly 200 employees in the past several months alone. During her visit today – which also included a tour of TP&L’s wind blade loading facility – Heitkamp underscored the need to bolster policies that increase jobs and diversify North Dakota’s energy sector.
In fact, North Dakota is the No. 1 state in the nation for wind energy jobs per capita, and third in the country for clean energy jobs per capita. In 2016, the wind industry employed more than 100,000 people – and demand is growing. In fact, the median salary of workers that maintain wind turbines – now the fastest-growing occupation in the United States – is expected to more than double between 2014 and 2024.
“Across the country, demand for wind power is booming – and by producing that resource, North Dakota companies like LM are not only helping grow hundreds of jobs in Grand Forks, they are reinforcing our state’s commitment to a robust, all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Heitkamp. “Our state has been rich with wind power for years and we have continued to see huge growth in wind energy and wind energy jobs in North Dakota, but we still only use a faction of our potential. When you see that wind-turbine technicians are the fastest growing occupation in the country, we know we must keep advocating for smart wind energy policies to increase our potential across the board in this industry – and push back on wrong-headed efforts to slow this growth. I had the opportunity to see up close how the hardworking folks at LM are making strides to do just that, and I’ll keep fighting for the support and certainty they need grow local jobs, strengthen our economy, and continue to make our state’s diverse energy policy a model for the country.”
Long an advocate for all of North Dakota’s energy workers and a strong proponent of a diversified national energy strategy, Heitkamp worked for a year and a half to bring both Republicans and Democrats to the table on her bill to lift the nation’s 40-year ban on crude oil exports. The bill, which passed in Congress’ year-end spending bill in December 2015, also contained provisions Heitkamp long pushed for to support prolonged certainty for renewable energy workers across North Dakota – including a five-year retroactive extension of PTC through 2019 which will encourage more energy efficient, job-creating solutions for years to come.
In 2015, up to 3,000 jobs were supported by the wind production industry in North Dakota – and the industry is growing. Last year, up to 5,000 jobs were supported by the industry directly or indirectly.
This visit continues Heitkamp’s strong record of supporting renewable energy businesses by visiting and speaking firsthand with workers on the ground. Last July, Heitkamp attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Xcel Energy’s Border Wind Farm, a project that is expected to employ about 150 North Dakotans during peak construction. In April 2015, Heitkamp toured Fargo’s 70-year-old Ulteig Engineers to discuss the direly needed build-out of North Dakota’s energy infrastructure with a particular focus on providing certainty to wind energy industry workers. In January 2014, Heitkamp toured Iberdrola Wind Farm near Rugby and in May 2013, Heitkamp attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Bison Wind Energy Center near New Salem. She also visited an Otter Tail Power Company and NextEra Energy Resources wind farm near Edgeley in October 2014.