Economic Development Studies

Community wind can contribute to the economic development of a region by providing high quality jobs, creating and retaining wealth that can then be re-invested in the community. Numerous independent studies have quantified the economic impact of community wind projects. To learn more about these economic benefits of community wind, read the articles below.
  • Wind Energy Costs Trending Down

    “More efficient turbines are generating greater amounts of wind power at lower costs.”

    —Peter Asmus,
    Pike Research senior analyst

    Since 2008 wind turbine prices in the U.S. have fallen by nearly one-third on average, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). "Understanding Trends in Wind Turbine Prices Over the Past Decade" examines how $-per-kW costs have declined in recent years, after having previously doubled over the period from 2002 through 2008. Berkeley Lab analyzed price data on a sampling of U.S. wind turbine transactions totaling 23,850 megawatts from 1997 through early 2011.

    Wind Energy Cost Drivers

    In conjunction with improvements in turbine design and performance, falling turbine prices enable the latest generation of wind power projects to profitably sell electricity at prices well below what was common several years ago. The Berkeley Lab report examines seven primary drivers of wind turbine prices in the United States, with the goal of estimating the degree to which each contributed to the recent trend:

    • Labor costs, which have historically risen during times of tight turbine supply
    • Warranty provisions, which reflect technology performance and reliability
    • Turbine manufacturer profitability, which can impact turbine prices independently of costs
    • Turbine design, which is principally manifested through increased turbine size
    • Raw materials prices, which affect the cost of inputs to the manufacturing process
    • Energy prices, which impact the cost of manufacturing and transporting turbines
    • Foreign exchange rates, which can impact the dollar amount paid for turbines and components imported into the United States

    Wind Energy Outlook

    The U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal of obtaining 6% of U.S. electricity from wind energy by 2020. That goal is consistent with the overall rate of growth for wind in the U.S., even though the industry has been subject to boom-bust cycles from year to year. According to a new report from Pike Research, total installed wind capacity in North America will more than double over the next six years, increasing from approximately 53,000 megawatts in 2011 to almost 126,000 megawatts by 2017.

    "This will be another difficult year for wind power in North America, but we do see signs of recovery," says Peter Asmus, Pike Research senior analyst. "Larger, more efficient turbines are generating greater amounts of wind power at lower costs, and both the U.S. and Canadian governments have shown strong commitment to the wind industry during this challenging economic time."

    Wind energy generation costs have declined over time to a current range of 6-9 cents per kilowatt-hour with an average of 8.2 cents, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Researchers and policy-makers are looking for ways to continue to lower the kilowatt hour cost of wind energy systems for effective growth and for related economic benefits.

    Wind Energy Research

    Researchers at Iowa State Univesity with wind blade

    Iowa State University researchers with TPI Composites turbine blade
    photo: Iowa State University

    One research project is finding better ways to manufacture wind turbine components in the U.S. through a joint project of Iowa State University's Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, and TPI Composites, a blade manufacturer. The researchers are using high-precision lasers to analyze wind turbine blades for minor defects and working to improve wind blade design and fabrication techniques.

    The researchers' goal is to develop new, low-cost manufacturing systems that could improve the productivity of turbine blade factories by as much as 35 percent, which would support an avearge cost reduction to 6 cents per kilowatt hour by 2020. "Manufacturing in this industry is done largely by hand," says associate professor Frank Peters. "Our goal is to find ways to automate the manufacturing."

    Information Resources

    Use the following links for more information from cited sources:

    Berkeley Lab report - "Understanding Trends in Wind Turbine Prices Over the Past Decade"

    National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Open Energy Information

    Pike Research - Wind Energy Outlook for North America

    Iowa State University - Wind Energy Manufacturing Lab helps Iowa State engineers improve wind power

  • Wind Energy for Rural Economic Development

    This presentation from the Wind Powering America program was given in 2006 at the AWEA annual conference.  According to the Wind Powering America web site, the presentation "covers wind turbine sizes and applications, the evolution of U.S. commercial wind technology, capacity and cost trends, world growth market, installed wind capacities, drivers for wind power, wind cost of energy, historic natural gas prices, Renewables Portfolio Standards (RPS) — people want renewable energy, wind energy investors, wind energy doesn't consume water, windy rural areas need economic development, economic development impacts, case studies, local ownership models, Farm Bill activities, Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) Model, state economic impacts, comparative economic development impacts, key issues for wind power, and more."

    Click here to go to the presentation. 

  • Wind Powering America's "Wind Economic Development" Web Page

    The Wind Powering America program out of the U.S. Department of Energy maintains this web page related to the economic benefits of wind energy. The page "provides software applications to help individuals, developers, local governments, and utilities make decisions about wind power. The page also lists publications and articles about economic development impacts that accrue from wind projects."

    Click here to visit the web page.