Colorado Wind Energy Gets A Burst Of Good News

Apr 12, 2016

Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy is booming.

Xcel Energy has announced a proposal with Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems to build a 300 turbine project in eastern Colorado. It would be the state's largest wind farm. The utility isn't releasing further information until the project is formally filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Even without firm details on the project, the wind industry is clearly growing.

The American Wind Energy Association is touting a record total of jobs across the industry at the start of 2016 — 88,000 to be exact, a 20 percent jump from the previous year.

Good news for jobs in that sector, and those looking for the work, like John Crothers, a student at the Ecotech Institute, a technical college in Aurora, Colorado.

Student John Crothers examines a scale model of a wind turbine engine at the Ecotech Institute in Aurora, Colo.
Credit Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

"Been hearing this is a growing industry," Crothers said.

He's right.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of wind turbine tech jobs is going to double in about the next eight years. The real numbers behind that bump are modest, jumping from 4,400 jobs to 9,200 by 2024. It's still good news for Crothers though. The BLS ranks wind turbine technician as the country's fastest growing profession.

"I look forward to climbing up 300 feet and working on something that's critical," Crothers said.

Tom Darin with the American Wind Energy Association points to the growth of wind turbine techs as one small and exciting piece of a trend seen through his industry. The other piece is wind's overall share of the energy pie. More wind power was added than any other U.S. electricity source in 2015.

"We beat natural gas, we beat solar, we were top," Darin said.

Still, wind turbines only generate about 5 percent of the country's electricity. The lion's share belongs to traditional power stalwarts like coal, oil and natural gas. Those extractive industries have seen layoffs though, each battered by low commodity prices.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of John Crother's surname. we regret the error.

Inside Energy is a public media collaboration, based in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota, focusing on the energy industry and its impacts.