30 September 2020

4 Impacts of Wind-Energy Development on Humans

have some adverse impacts on the economy of its host area. While it has been argued that wind-energy facilities can be a tourist attraction (AusWEA 2004), it also has been argued that wind projects are seen by people as undesirable in national forest areas (Grady 2004) and can damage tourism in areas of high scenic beauty (Schleede 2003). It is also possible that, while one or a few wind-energy facilities may be a tourist attraction, a proliferation may have the reverse effect.

According to the AWEA’s “Wind Energy and Economic Development: Building Sustainable Jobs and Communities,” the European Wind Energy Association has estimated that in total, every MW of installed wind capacity directly and indirectly creates about 60 person-years of employment and 15 to 19 jobs. The fact sheet notes that the rate of job creation will decline as the industry grows and is able to take advantage of economies of scale (AWEA 2006f).

Of greatest interest at the local level, however, are not these totals but rather the jobs that become available to local or regional workers because of a wind-energy project in their vicinity. These jobs are likely to involve site preparation and facility construction during the project start-up period; skeleton crews for facility, grounds, and transmission line maintenance during facility operation typically about 20 years; and crews to perform decommissioning and site restoration work when the facility is closed.

The size of crews will vary depending upon the project scale, site characteristics, etc., but estimates of the number of employees, pay scales, skill requirements, and duration of employment can be made with reasonable accuracy. The secondary effects of wind-energy projects on the economy (both positive and negative) are much harder to estimate. On the one hand, a wind-energy project may increase the need for service sector businesses and jobs (gas stations, motels, restaurants, etc.). On the other hand, it may deter economic growth that would otherwise occur in the area (e.g., second homes, recreational facilities, and related amenities).

To estimate the secondary effects of a wind-energy project on a region’s economy, the region first must be geographically defined. Changes in its economic activity generally are then measured in terms of changes in either (1) employment, including part-time and seasonal employment; (2) regional income, i.e., the sum of worker wages and salaries plus business income and profits; or (3) changes in sales or spending. A regional economic multiplier may be used to estimate the secondary economic effects of new money flowing into the region. In conducting the impact analysis, the aim is to estimate the changes that would occur if the project is built versus if it is not built (not just the before/after changes).

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