JACKSON — Wind energy development could bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to Wyoming over the next decade, according to a federal report.
The analysis, conducted by analysts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, examines the economic impact of Wyoming wind energy development, construction of the power lines needed to transport electricity out of state, and the growth of natural gas power generation, commonly used to back up wind energy sources.
During the next decade, that development may create 47,000 jobs, pay $2.6 billion in wages and benefits and pump $5.1 billion into the state’s economy, said Eric Lantz, a research analyst with the laboratory. The study, released Tuesday, only examined one version of the next decade of wind energy and infrastructure development.
“It’s kind of a ‘what-if’ scenario,” Lantz told the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority board at its winter meeting in Jackson on Tuesday.
Yet the study did consider high- and low-case scenarios, which predict more and less money and jobs. The study’s results are the analysts’ “base case,” Lantz said.
The researchers expect wind energy development’s economic impact — jobs, wages and spending — to spike in 2016 and again in 2019, but then flatten out in later years as projects phase into normal operations.
The development’s economic output — a general measure of the value goods and services — would peak at $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion during construction years but level off to about $400 million a year once operations get under way.
At its construction-driven peak, development would employ 8,000 to 14,000 workers, while ongoing operations would employ 2,300 to 2,600 workers for the following 20 years, the analysts estimated.
“And those are Wyoming workers,” Lantz emphasized.
How much of that economic growth and money stays within the state depends on how many of the trained workers and goods needed for the development come from within the state. This indicates the potential for the growth of in-state manufacturing, education and job training.
“There’s a lot of room for Wyoming to capture greater opportunity from this project,” Lantz said.
The study estimates total Wyoming economic activity from wind energy investments would range between $12 billion and $15 billion when construction and 20 years of operation are taken into account.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted the study on behalf of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.