What Do You Do for a Living?
By George Harvey
One of the most interesting videos I have seen recently is “Climbing Wind Turbines for a Living | That’s Amazing” (http://bit.ly/wind-technician-video), produced by the Weather Channel. In it, Jessica Kilroy, an attractive young woman who laughs as she refers to herself as a “blonde chick,” talks about her job. The video is full of pictures of her doing her work, dangling from ropes at the tip of the blade of a wind turbine, with about 330 feet of nothing at all between her and the earth’s safety.
Kilroy is clearly a person who enjoys and takes pride in what she is doing. It is challenging work physically. As a child, she had medical problems that prevented her from skipping rope or playing basketball. Her ability to take on a job that may start with climbing a 35-story ladder to the top of a wind turbine shows that the effort she put into overcoming those problems paid off.
She also takes a good deal of pride in working in an industry that is good for the environment. An avid rock climber, she is very aware of nature. The job she has, doing such things as repairing wind turbine blades that have been damaged by lightning, helps provide the solution to the environmental problems that we have. The most dangerous sources of energy we have, in terms of effects on wildlife, are fossil fuels; by comparison, wind turbines are altogether benign. Kilroy contributes to our reduction in the use of fossil fuels by keeping the wind turbines running.
There is one thing about the wind turbine technician’s job the video does not mention. Wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing job in the United States, according to a report recently published by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), “Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs” (http://bit.ly/sustainable-jobs-growth).
Other jobs in sustainability are also growing very fast. The EDF report says, “Solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years and are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy.” While jobs in the other areas of renewable power and energy efficiency are not growing that fast, general renewable energy jobs have been growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% per year for the past five years. By comparison, jobs in the fossil fuels industries have declined, with a CAGR of -4.25% over the same period.
The U.S. coal industry shed 12,000 mining jobs – a 14% decline – from 2010-2016,
while solar companies adding more than 280,000 jobs in the same period, a nearly 300% increase. – Department of Energy
In the Northeast, Massachusetts has been a leader in creating new clean energy jobs, which include not only renewable power, but also such things as building efficiency and clean transportation. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center issued its own report, “Massachusetts Adds Over 6,300 Clean Energy Jobs” (http://bit.ly/MA-clean-jobs-report) in December, 2016. That report says that over 6,000 clean energy jobs were created in the state in 2016, bringing the total for the state to 105,202. The figure represents a 75% growth since 2010.
Many clean technology jobs pay rather well. The median pay for wind turbine technicians was $51,050 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those of us who would not feel comfortable dangling off the tip of a blade of a wind turbine can take heart, however. There are lots of clean technology jobs. In Massachusetts, 70% of clean energy jobs are paid at rates above the median pay of all jobs.
We should make note that the growth of these jobs, and in fact some of the jobs already in the field, may be in peril on the short term, as the controlling interests in Washington want to reverse the decline in jobs in fossil fuels. At Green Energy Times, however, we feel fairly confident that the fact that sun and wind have come to be the least expensive sources of electric power, and the fact that grid-scale battery prices have been falling very rapidly, make it unlikely that coal will ever return to its earlier levels of importance. In fact, we see that natural gas and oil will likely decline, despite the support of the current administration for polluting power.
Some of us might feel a little depressed about the goings on in Washington. For those who do, we might suggest taking a look at the video in the first paragraph. Jessica Kilroy is an inspiration.
Solar Jobs Website
An interesting website for those who wish to check on employment in the solar industry is the “Solar Jobs Census 2016,” (http://bit.ly/solar-jobs-census-2016). Looking around on the web page, one can find a good deal of information, including the number of jobs in the solar industry in any given county. The importance of solar energy as a job driver can also be seen on a report by the Solar Foundation, “U.S. Solar Industry Had $154 Billion Economic Impact in 2016” (http://bit.ly/US-solar-economic-impact).