Clemson Report Reveals Economic Impact of Wind Energy in SC

Chris Carnevale | October 8, 2012 | Energy Policy, Wind
Clemson Paw Logo Wind TurbineA new report from Clemson University details the magnitude of the wind energy industry in South Carolina’s economy.  The South Carolina Wind Energy Supply Chain Survey and Offshore Wind Economic Impact Study, produced in collaboration by Clemson University Restoration Institute, Strom Thurmond Institute and the South Carolina Energy Office, takes a detailed look at the South Carolina firms currently in the wind industry and what the state might stand to see if it were to install 1 gigawatt (or about 225,000 homes’ worth of power) of offshore wind.

Long story short, South Carolina boasts a robust wind industry supply chain that contributes significantly to the state’s economy.  Currently 33 businesses employ 1,134 SC workers in the wind industry in high-quality jobs that pay more than comparable jobs in other industries, meaning employees invest more money in the local economy, resulting in the support of 1,797 additional indirect and induced jobs.  In all, the South Carolina wind industry currently contributes an estimated $530 million in total output in 2012, $29 million of revenue for the state government, and $21 million for local governments.

15 MW Test Rig
Clemson University's wind turbine testing facility will help drive the growth of the industry locally and globally. Its 15 MW dynamometer will be the biggest and best of its kind in the world when it begins operation in just a few months. Courtesy Clemson University.

Clemson’s report helps confirm the reality that offshore wind is one of the biggest economic opportunities of this generation for South Carolina.  Not only are we seeing economic development from the wind industry happening now, but we can actually expect the industry’s impact to grow in the years to come.  84% of firms identified in the census reported that they are planning on increasing capital investment in the state over the next 1 to 5 years or keep their level of investment steady, while just 4% foresee reducing investment (the other 12% did not know).  A whopping 95% of firms indicated that they are planning on increasing or at least maintaining their number of employees and their products or services offered.

Recent companies’ relocations to South Carolina, such as Nexans cable company moving to Berkeley County this year and IMO Group’s arrival in Summerville in 2010 (these firms supporting 1,144 jobs in addition to the numbers above), indicate that South Carolina is an attractive place to locate a wind business and that we should expect even more industry development in coming years.  It’s no wonder that the major local economic development organization, the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, has identified wind energy as one of the region’s four greatest opportunity industries.

Table 16 Avg Annual Impact
Excerpt from the Clemson report.

Now here’s the kicker: we don’t even have any large-scale wind installed in South Carolina yet.  All of these jobs are supporting installations elsewhere in North America or internationally.  What if we could create markets for our workers right here in the Palmetto State?  It’s not as if we don’t have the wind to harness.  In fact, we have the second largest offshore wind resource on the East Coast–enough to produce more power than the state uses in a year.  Lucky for us, Clemson took out the guess work and provided detailed analysis of what economic impact South Carolina might see from the development of 1 gigawatt of offshore wind energy.

The report indicates that the development of a 1 gigawatt offshore wind farm would support an average of 3,879 in-state jobs, annually contribute $366 million in output and $61.6 million in local and state government revenue.  As previously mentioned, South Carolina’s wind resource is much greater than the 1 GW offered in Clemson’s scenario.  If adequately robust transmission or storage infrastructure were developed, South Carolina could translate its offshore wind resource into a commodity and be a power exporter.  

I Support Offshore Wind PetitionThis is a no-brainer for South Carolina.  Developing offshore wind would create jobs, increase revenue, establish our state as a pioneer in an emerging industry, diversify our energy portfolio, and allow us to harness energy that is pollution free and doesn’t waste precious water resources.  In short, it’s a win for people, planet, and prosperity.

If you agree with me, please sign our petition in support of offshore wind and write your legislators to support the extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and investment tax credit (ITC).  This opportunity is too great to let pass away.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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