The past few days, leaders in the wind energy industry have been showcasing its impressive workforce and far-reaching economic impact, especially in rural communities, as part of the fourth annual celebration of American Wind Week, which continues through August 15th. CRES has supported this event since its inception, and we are proud to participate once again.
It’s a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, the pandemic has taken its toll on the industry, with many jobs lost, supply chains decimated, normal operations strained, and new projects delayed.
But these disruptions also stand in contrast to the decade-long winning streak that culminated with wind power becoming America’s number one source of renewable energy last year, and the shutdown provided an opportunity for wind energy to prove its value to the grid. At the height of stay-at-home orders, wind farms produced enough electricity to power 32 million homes in both April and May.
As our Clean Energy Forward campaign has emphasized, clean energy industries like wind can help the economy recover – a core idea behind American Wind Week’s 2020 theme, “Wind Builds the Future.” After all, wind technicians are still the country’s second-fastest-growing job, and the wind project pipeline remains at record levels. The emerging offshore wind sector is projected to create 83,000 jobs in a decade and will establish a completely new U.S. supply chain.
However, the wind energy industry can only do drive such growth with support from our leaders. That’s why American Wind Week organizers are promoting three policy changes for Congress to stimulate the wind industry: provide alternative financing options to the tax equity market, extend the sector’s “safe harbor” period to seven years and allow for safe harbor considerations to all land-based and offshore wind projects that demonstrate a continuous effort to make progress towards completion.
These measures would be political winners based on our most recent polling. Conservatives, in particular, should love wind as CRES Executive Director Heather Reams outlined in an op-ed for American Wind Week 2018 which you can read here.
“From a political perspective, one more reason conservatives love wind energy is that the states most suitable for it are traditionally ‘Red States.’ In fact, look to the top three states for wind capacity — Texas (23,262 megawatts), Oklahoma (7,495 megawatts) and Iowa (7,312 megawatts),” she wrote.
Many conservative leaders in Congress agree, which is why we have seen them fight for wind energy and other clean energy development this summer. For example, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Richard Burr (R-NC) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging the consideration of policies that will bolster jobs and innovation across the clean energy economy in the next COVID-19 relief package. CRES applauded the senators’ leadership.
Normally, the week is focused on in-person events at wind projects, manufacturing facilities, and host communities. But this year, the celebration is online, of course. People working in the wind energy sector or students studying for a career in wind are encouraged to submit a photo of themselves on the job or in the classroom, which may be shared on AWEA’s various virtual platforms.
But the best way to celebrate American Wind Week is to take action to make a difference. Contact your members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and tell them you want them to provide economic relief and support for jobs in clean energy industries, including wind.