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Three separate surveys of the wind business in Europe have revealed that far more jobs are being created in the sector than earlier estimated. In Germany, Denmark and the UK alone, nearly 16,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the business of building and installing wind turbines.

In the UK, some 2200 jobs are reliant on wind energy. This is a key finding of a survey of employment in the British wind industry. The study was undertaken by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) and co-funded by the government's Energy Technology Support Unit. All organisations known to be working in wind energy in Britain were consulted for the survey. It revealed that some 1300 jobs were directly involved with wind energy. However the knock-on effect throughout the economy leads to an estimated 900 more jobs.

Manufacturing would appear to create the greatest employment opportunities, accounting for just under a quarter of all wind related work. Next comes consultancy and contract research and development. Also relatively high employers are wind farm development, operation, and construction. More than two-thirds of jobs are within micro, small and medium sized organisations. This is similar to the size distribution of firms in manufacturing throughout the UK economy.

A good provider

The British survey also confirms that running wind energy plant provides more jobs per unit of electricity generated than other forms of generation. Around 165 operations and maintenance jobs are created for each TWh of wind power. This is more than double the O&M employment provided by coal fired generation and is almost 20 times the employment provided by gas fired plant. However, it is similar to the overall number of jobs per TWh at nuclear generating company Nuclear Electric.

Similar findings were made by the Danish wind turbine industry's job survey, carried out last year. When the survey was conducted, some 8600 jobs were identified in the Danish wind industry. Seven thousand of these were connected with production of wind turbines for export and 1300 with production and installation of wind turbines in Denmark. The remaining 300 were employed in related fields, such as the consultant, utility and machine service sectors.

Of the 8600 jobs, 1623 were employed directly by wind turbine manufacturers, with the rest employed by the industry's suppliers. The survey revealed that each job at a wind turbine manufacturer created 4.5 jobs among suppliers, a much higher figure than previously estimated. The Danish wind industry is now equal in size to the fishing industry, says the wind industry association's director, Søren Krohn.

A third survey of jobs in the wind business, this time in Germany, reveals that more than 5000 new jobs have been created over the last four to five years. The survey was carried out by Germany's Inland Wind Energy Association (IWB). Employment for around 1700 people has been created by wind turbine manufacturers, but the bulk of employment opportunities have materialised in sectors linked with the use of wind energy, such as planning and grid expansion.

While other industry sectors are moaning about how unattractive Germany has become as an industrial location, says IWB, the wind sector has proved sufficiently attractive for companies from Denmark and Holland to shift part of their production to Germany. Another major plus highlighted by IWB is that not only has wind energy brought work to thousands of people, but also to economically weak areas such as Ostfriesland and the west coast.

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