United States

United States

Wind pivotal to economic revival

UNITED STATES: From small-town economic development offices to the White House, wind energy is the poster child for the promise that new green collar industries can revive America's manufacturing sector. The explosive growth of the wind power market in the US is the story of a truly international industry that already accounts for more than 80,000 domestic jobs, with big hopes it will create many more.

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The global downturn at the end of 2008 sent slow but profound ripples that are only now being felt by the US market; installations through the first half of 2010 were down 70% from last year. But the outlook would be much worse if the Obama administration had not pushed successfully last year for the passage of its $862 billion economic stimulus plan, which included grants to offsets 30% of the installed cost of a renewable energy project. It has been a lifesaver, with wind power securing 86% of the nearly
$2.6 billion grants disbursed as of March 1 this year. The grants are in place through 2012, which suggests that while the US wind industry has reset this year to much lower levels, it is still holding its own and on the path to recovery.

As this special report shows, the recovery hinges partly on the inherent potential of the varied US market. Some states, such as Texas and others in the West and Midwest already have well-established wind industries and look set to continue that growth. Other parts of the country, particularly the Northeast, are pursuing the potentially huge offshore market, while the likes of South Dakota and Wyoming are poised for an explosion in growth as developers exploit opportunities in those big, empty states.

Manufacturing lifeline

Elsewhere, in states such as Ohio, Kansas and a number of others in the South where development pipelines are more modest, the wind industry still represents a real lifeline to a declining manufacturing sector. Here state economic development bodies are actively promoting homegrown engineering talent in a bid to secure valuable investment. Meanwhile, port towns with the right facilities and connections are becoming vital links in logistics chains stretching around the world as their wind-related business increases.

Ultimately, the recovery of demand in the US wind market means more green collar jobs across the country. These are sober times, but the varied fabric of the US industry means it is well set for recovery. This guide serves as a snapshot of that industry — the projects, supply chain hotspots, research institutions and transport links that will underpin its development in the coming years, and the policies and incentives that will help that happen. 

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