More loaves and fishes from the wind energy folks?

If you could burn calories spinning job numbers, there wouldn’t be an ounce of fat in the US government.  Well, we all know that’s not the case … suet is a featured item in the Congressional feeding trough.

But what about the wind industry?  Are they using a little poetic license when they tout the number of jobs associated with their industry.  I know the LLCs developing the projects are more than happy to allow perception to inflate reality if unchallenged.  I see that in my hometown.  One statement is 150 jobs, another 300, for 9 months, for a year or any combination within the range you can imagine.  Yet the construction schedule they publish makes it clear they will not have all those folks at the construction site for the full period of time.  I keep asking about labor hour concentration, but that falls on deaf ears.  But they’re happy to have the local politicians and leaders think that’s the case so they can tout how much they’re doing for the community – vote for me!

But in a recent article at Bloomberg/Business Week titled, Vestas, Siemens Wind Bets at Risk on Cheap Gas, Subsidy Loss, a number comes flying out that deserves closer scrutiny.  I’m frankly surprised Bloomberg didn’t ask.

Here’s the statement that caught my eye:  “At stake are investments in factories that produce steel towers, fiberglass blades and turbines spread throughout the U.S. and employing more than 85,000 workers in the world’s largest market for wind energy.”  85,000 folks employed in US factories that make the steel towers, fiberglass blades and turbines?  Doesn’t that strike you as a lot of folks?

General Electric, in case you haven’t seen their ads, make everything from medical equipment to aviation equipment to, yes, wind stuff.  Here’s this from GE’s own fact sheet:  “GE is a diversified infrastructure, finance and media company taking on the world’s toughest challenges. From aircraft engines and power generation to financial services, medical imaging, and television programming, GE operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 300,000 people worldwide.

So, based on the numbers quoted in the article, we’re to believe the US factories dedicated to production of towers, fiberglass blades and turbines, employ the equivalent of  28% of all of GE’s 160 operations worldwide?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy it!

If someone were to tell me that tucked away in the supply chain of US industrial wind 85,000 people, for one brief moment at one time or another planned, designed, sold, manufactured (components, piece parts or raw materials), transported, installed, serviced, maintained or otherwise touched a wind turbine for pay, maybe.  But the article is horribly misleading.  And again, all of GE employs 300,000 … worldwide!

Let’s look at an industry that builds things that are actually useful:

The US Commercial Shipyard Industry:


  • The U.S. commercial shipyard industry employees more than 50,000 workers building and maintaining non-Navy vessels
  • Commercial shipyard employees pay more than $200 million annually in state and local taxes

Economic Impact

  • New Construction and repair of vessels generates more than $500 million in annual payrolls for shipyard employees
  • More than 2,000 vessels are built each year
  • American commercial shipyards purchase more than $2 billion annually in materials to maintain the U.S. merchant fleet contributing significantly to the ability of U.S. marine equipment manufacturers to employ more than 30,000 employees in their factories
  • U.S. shipyards receive no government subsidies

Also worth noting:

  • American commercial shipyards provide the industrial base needed during time of national emergency at no cost to the government
  • There are over 200 small and mid-tier shipyards located throughout the inland river and coastal waterway system of the United States.
  • They operate in 33 states, from Maine to Alaska and Florida to California; most are located on the Gulf Coast, Mississippi or Ohio River systems, and in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Individual yards range in size from small family-owned yards with a few dozen employees to state-of-the-art facilities with hundreds and even thousands of workers.
  • These yards build and repair the nation’s fleet of 6,200 towboats and tugboats, 32,000 barges of all kinds, and ferries, as well as ocean going vessels
  • Over 50,000 Americans in 33 states are directly employed in the building, repair and maintenance of Jones Act vessels
  • No government construction subsidies are paid to Jones Act builders or repairers
  • New construction, repair and maintenance of Jones Act vessels generate over $1 billion in annual payrolls for shipyard employees
  • Shipyard employees building or repairing Jones Act vessels contribute approximately $250,000,000 annually in federal and state taxes
  • The Jones Act fleet is comprised of 44,000 plus vessels representing a capital investment by American companies of approximately $26 billion
  • The size and average 30-year life of the Jones Act fleet dictates that about 2,000 replacement vessels will be required each year just to maintain the fleet at current capacity
  • Building an average of 2,000 replacement vessels annually will create and sustain 20,000 shipyard jobs. New construction of an “average” Jones Act vessel creates 10 shipyard jobs
  • Shipyards purchase approximately $1.9 billion in materials annually to build and repair Jones Act vessels
  • Purchases generated through the building and repair of Jones Act vessels contribute significantly to the ability of U.S. marine equipment manufacturers to employ approximately 30,000 direct employees in their factories.

So, what is it Windy?  Are there really 85,000 jobs manufacturing turbines, blades and towers here in US factories?  Or is it more likely that 85,000 people, at one time or another, received pay to touch or see a wind turbine part?  Unless the factories touted in the article are horribly inefficient (which would be understandable if government funded), your numbers are greatly exaggerated.

I think when you ask that legislation be put in place to require folks to give their hard earned tax money to support this high cost/low benefit industry, accuracy regarding the benefit of potential jobs is not a number to be spun.  So, how about sharing the details?  How did you arrive at 85,000?  We know that in order to reach a total you have to add parts.  How about sharing that information?

Oh, by the way … you’re not allowed to include the total employment of a manufacturing facility if it makes other than wind parts.  You know the rules … just use the labor hours dedicated to wind component manufacturing.  Any Manufacturing Engineer will help you get to the numbers easily.  It’s how they sex and control factory cost.  I’ve been there, done that … so I’ll be happy to help if you get stuck.

We’re paying for it, after all!  You are asking us to fund these foreign companies so a little transparency should not be out of the question.

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1 Response to More loaves and fishes from the wind energy folks?

  1. jon Boone says:

    As I’ve often said about the false and misleading claims of industrial wind limited liability companies: There’s no penalty for lying. Great expose here.

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