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Can a Healthy Environment and a Strong Economy Go Hand in Hand?

A lot of people get this wrong — they think a healthy economy and cleaner air don’t work well together.

In reality, they can go hand in hand.

Wind energy works for America by creating U.S. factory jobs and investing in areas that need it the most across rural and Rust Belt America, all while cutting air pollution.

Wind power: an American jobs engine

Across all 50 states, over 100,000 Americans have jobs with wind energy companies and their supply chain.

Many of them are manufacturing jobs, boosting parts of country that have struggled for decades. Over 25,000 workers at more than 500 U.S. factories build wind turbines and parts, and these jobs will continue growing. By 2020, wind manufacturing jobs are projected to reach 33,000, an increase of 8,000 U.S. factory jobs from wind by the end of President Trump’s first term.

“There’s just so much work, orders keep pumping in,” says Blake Kasper, who helps build wind turbine towers for Broadwind Energy in Abilene, Texas. “Jobs [at Broadwind] are second to none around here. The opportunities are limitless.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing job in America today is wind turbine technician. That profession will grow by 108 percent over the next decade.

Perhaps even more importantly, America’s veterans find good careers in wind power. The U.S. wind industry employs vets at a rate 50 percent higher than the typical industry.

This growth will continue in the years ahead. Wind-related jobs will total nearly a quarter of a million by 2020, according to a projection by Navigant Consulting. Navigant also finds that manufacturing and installing each new wind turbine supports 18 full-time U.S. jobs.

Bringing economic growth to rural America

Wind energy invests in rural America like no other industry.

Since 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural areas, many of the economic benefits flow to those communities. For starters, farmers and ranchers who host the turbines get lease payments, which totaled $245 million last year. That offers steady income they can count on during an unexpected drought or dip in crop prices.

“Love won’t put any money in the bank,” says Johnny Ussery, whose family ranched in Sweetwater, Texas since the early 1900s. “The wind turbines have allowed me to put money back in the ranch that was very hard to come by.”

Greener energy, cleaner air: In addition to providing good, clean energy, wind power has provided support to struggling veterans, offering them job opportunities at a higher rate than other industries.

Because wind farms often pay the largest share of a county’s taxes, all residents benefit, not just wind turbine landlords. Added tax revenue brings new resources local officials can use to pay teacher salaries, fix roads and buy new firetrucks.

“It’s been a game changer for us,” says Jeff Snyder, superintendent of the Lincolnview school district in Van Wert, Ohio. After a wind farm came to Van Wert County, Jeff’s district had funds to provide every student grades K through 12 with a computer, offer advanced engineering and biomedical courses and outfit all school buildings with Wi-Fi.

New wind farms will pay $8 billion in property taxes over the next four years, on top of the tax revenue from wind farms already in existence, according to Navigant. That makes a big impact, because 70 percent of wind farms are built in low-income areas. Overall, wind power will create $85 billion of economic activity through 2020.

Clean air, healthy lungs

Wind power drives all of this economic growth while also cutting down air pollution, like smog-creating sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that trigger asthma attacks.

That literally keeps Americans out of the hospital. In 2016, the most recent year with available data, wind avoided $7.4 billion in public health costs.

We need both our economy and environment to be stable and healthy. As a low-cost, clean, job-creating solution, wind power checks both of those boxes.

That’s why wind works for America.

Tom Kiernan, CEO, American Wind Energy Association, [email protected]

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