Having spent a number of years in project related work, construction workers are high on my list of folks to respect. The work is difficult, demanding and dangerous. So don’t let anything I write here be implied as a reflection on them.
Such jobs are critical and every effort to put folks to work should be considered. Some, like me however, don’t see wind as a viable, reliable energy source and view the use of “potential” jobs as a red herring in the whole argument about industrial wind’s place in future energy solutions. Many simply believe the outlandish tax credits and subsidies provided the wind LLCs would be better spent on construction projects that provide real economic growth and, as a result, long term jobs. So, when I hear job numbers tossed around, I think it’s fair to ask for a little clarification.
For example, the number of construction jobs for the Pinnacle Wind Farm at New Page (Mineral County, WV) under development by US WindForce is estimated to be, depending on the source, more than 100, 131, or 150/200. It is interesting to note that West Virginia regulators said the project will create 275 local construction jobs and about 15 permanent jobs. Now, how in the world did they come up with that number?
In June of 2009, US WindForce’s David Friend “estimated 150-200 workers would be needed during the construction phase, which is expected to take nine months to a year.” For me, 150/200 jobs over a time period is a meaningless measure unless converted to labor (man) hours. And there is, of course, a way to get to that number, if you have a few additional facts.
Take a look on page two of the schedule here and we’ll pick up on the other side. Note that the schedule is a snapshot in time and to get to the current and most accurate schedule go to the Gantt Chart link on the US WindForce site:
The schedule confirms the 9 to 12 months from mobilization to completion, and, as with any construction project there is some overlap. A fair portion of the work however is sequential. I imagine that the foundation people need to be out of the way before the crane operators, riggers and assemblers show up, and they, in turn, will need to move over a little for the electricians, etc. That being the case, what does the 150/200 worker number so readily tossed about translate to, in real labor content?
For me, the best measure of labor content in a project is labor (man) hours. I imagine someone estimated the labor hours to prepare cost estimates during the bid phase. And now, since the WV PSC approval last month and Mr. Friend’s indication that he’s raring to go, these labor numbers should have firmed up considerably. So now I think we’re far enough along to estimate labor content by discipline and roll up an estimate of total labor hours to provide a more realistic presentation of labor.
Granted, if I’m the only knucklehead who thinks leaving numbers like 150/200 workers and 9 to 12 months dangling out there together might paint a slightly rosier picture than exists in reality, especially when repeated so often in the press, you should just ignore this post. But if seeing actual labor (man) hours helps others understand more about the actual labor contribution to be received from the project in order to make a better assessment of the projects value to the community in terms of labor, it might be worth putting that number along side the 150/200 and 9 to 12.
I know cost issues are proprietary, but I’m not asking that the cost of labor be published. Since however, wind developers were so eager to publish labor as a sales point in terms of “X jobs for Y months,” I think it’s fair that when they are able to clarify the claim in real terms, they simply do so. After all, what’s the harm?