Wind Farm Making Mark in Rural Texas

October 29, 2009 by Emsi Burning Glass

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Earlier this year, we looked at the occupational profile of a typical 250-person wind manufacturing firm. While that was a hypothetical case, an article from Dow Jones Newswires, “Wind Power Generates Green Economy in West Texas,” does a nice job detailing the staffing and wages from the world’s largest wind farm in Roscoe, Texas.

Here are some key data points from the Roscoe wind project:

  • There are 627 turbines in operation that generate enough power for 230,000 homes.

  • At the height of construction, 600 people were employed. Now 10 permanent staffers are on board and roughly 60 contractors perform maintenance on the turbines.

  • There is also a wind energy service center in the region that employs 120 technicians — former utility workers, mechanics, etc. — that monitor and service the turbines.

  • Wages for the green jobs, according to one estimate, are $50,000 per year at the base level. That’s a fairly robust figure for a county with average annual earnings of under $35,000, according to the latest EMSI dataset (3rd quarter, 2009).

From all accounts, the wind farm has been a boon to the rural area. Indeed, these types of green projects can be ideal for rural development — in certain cases, of course — because of the availability of plenty of land and wind. Here’s an excerpt from the article that hammers home that point:

Greg Wortham, the mayor of Sweetwater–the county seat and economic hub–said wind-power development in the region could serve as a model for the revilatization of rural America, if the windy Great Plains are linked to the populated and power-hungry East and West Coasts. Already local businesses and construction crews that cut their teeth in the vicinity’s pioneering wind farms are testing their mettle in emerging wind economies like Iowa. …

“This is the microcosm of what’s going to happen,” Wortham says.