If you think the UK media report mostly anti-wind stories you could be right. But news just out could help to stem the flow of wind power criticism. Wind farms generate millions for the economy and create thousands of jobs, a new UK government-backed study has found.
The study followed the fortunes of 18 wind farms and found that communities around those farms received around £84 million (€104 million) in 2011, with 1,100 local jobs supported. BiGGAR Economics, an independent UK consultancy and author of the study, said that in total Britain’s onshore wind farms supported 8,600 jobs and were worth £548 million (€680 million) to the UK economy last year.
Ed Davey, UK Energy Secretary, said: “onshore wind power is a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix, not only does wind power provide secure low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment.”
“Our huge energy resource is helping drive economic growth, demonstrated most recently with the £125 million [€155 million] investment by Gamesa to bring 8,000 jobs to its wind turbine manufacturing hub at Leith [Scotland]”, he added.
And the benefits are set to grow in the future: RenewableUK said that if onshore wind power is deployed at a scale suggested in the UK government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, then the economy could benefit to the tune of £0.78 billion (€0.97 billion) by 2020, supporting around 11,600 jobs.
Maria McCaffery, CEO of RenewableUK, the UK industry association, said the survey reveals the “real value” of wind. Wind energy provides close to £700,000 (€868,000) for every MW installed in the UK, with over £100,000 (€124,000) of that staying in the local area, she said.
“This study explains why in rural areas 98% of people support wind, and 57% of those living in rural areas recognise that wind brings benefits in terms of jobs, 12% more than those in urban areas,” McCaffery said.
Moreover, the report also points out that many of the 8,000 components required to manufacture a wind turbine are, or could be produced in the UK. “Many activities relating to the development of wind farms are already carried out by UK based businesses. As the sector develops, there are likely to be opportunities to increase this activity,” the report says.
At an EU level, the European Wind Energy Association’s latest report also delved into the economic benefits of wind power. It found that the wind energy sector contributed €32 billion to EU GDP in 2010, while avoiding €5.71 billion of money that would have been spent on importing fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the sector created 30% more jobs from 2007 to 2010 to reach nearly 240,000, while EU unemployment rose by 9.6% between 2007 and 2010. By 2020 there should be 520,000 jobs in the sector, the report found.