US wind energy industry is booming, but tariffs pose a threat
In 2008, Jason Urichich was at a crossroads. He lost his home and landscaping business in Youngstown, Ohio, and decided it was time for a change. He decided to pursue a six-month program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Michigan for wind turbine repair.
“I was really interested in the small turbines, and at home I was trying to build one myself,” Urichich said. “I decided I didn’t know enough about it, and maybe I should go to school for it.”
A decade later that “maybe” turned into a career. He’s now a senior lead technician for Avangrid Renewables’ Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The company employs some 300 technicians at its 60 commercial-scale wind facilities across the country. With five more under construction, Avangrid Renewables — which provides clean energy to major companies like Nike and Amazon’s AWS — is hiring dozens more nationwide, as demand continues to grow.
The American Wind Energy Association’s U.S. Wind Industry Annual Report found that by the end of 2018, the sector supported 114,000 full-time-equivalent jobs directly associated with wind energy project planning, development, construction, manufacturing, supply chain and operations. Some 8,500 jobs were added in 2018 — an increase of 8%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that wind turbine technician jobs will be the second-fastest-growing occupation through 2026, with a growth rate of 96% to more than 11,000 jobs.
“Virtually all of our companies are hiring,” said Tom Kiernan, the association’s CEO. “We are looking for folks that want to build a career, because the men and women who are servicing a wind farm — that wind farm will be there for the next 30 years.” The association said more than 99% of these projects are in rural areas like Shenandoah.