The Growing Wind Industry in Kentucky

Guest Blog | June 16, 2011 | Energy Policy, Wind

This blog was co-authored by Simon Mahan.

Installed Wind Capacity in Megawatts (2030) - U.S. Department of Energy's 20% Windpower by 2030 report, 2008

This is the second of five blogs in a series where the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will be highlighting states throughout our region and their role in the wind industry.

Kentucky has no utility-scale wind farms currently. However, wind developers are starting to take interest in the Bluegrass State. This week it was announced that NextEra (a Florida-based company) is performing a wind study in Mason and Bracken Counties, Kentucky. Thorough wind data collection and environmental assessments will take a year or more to complete. Once due diligence is done, NextEra will decide if they will want to move forward with a project. Beyond the environmental benefits of generating clean power, wind farms come with a great economic benefit. NextEra estimates a 100 MW wind farm developed in the area would be a $180 million dollar investment, including $32 million in property tax revenue and $17.5 million for escalating lease payments to landowners over the lifetime of the project. In addition, the project would create an estimated 445 jobs during the construction phase and 17 long-term positions, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Jobs and Economic Development Model.

Job Creation from a 100 MW-sized wind farm in Kentucky. Source: SACE analyis using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Jobs and Economic Development Impact Model
Job Creation from a 100 MW-sized wind farm in Kentucky. Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Jobs and Economic Development Impact Model
Wind Manufacturing Jobs in Job-Years (2030) - U.S. Department of Energy's 20% Windpower by 2030 report, 2008

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy published a report on how to achieve 20% of the nation’s electrical supply from wind power. In that report, the DOE estimated that Kentucky would supply between 100-1000 MW of wind energy by 2030. Beyond producing clean, renewable energy, Kentucky also has a role to play in manufacturing to support this large amount of wind energy growth; up to 10,000 manufacturing jobs would be created in the state in a 20% wind power by 2030 scenario.

The state already has a head start supporting wind energy growth by supplying the wind industry with several needed products and services. The following is a non-exhaustive list of companies located in Kentucky who serve wind industry customers:

  • Bonfiglioli (Hebron, KY) Designs and manufactures a series of specialized wind turbine gearboxes and inverters. According to Bonfiglioli, one in three windmills in the world uses their gearbox.
  • C.I. Agent Solutions (Louisville, KY) Designs and manufactures passive and active Secondary Containment and Diversion Methods. Their polymer technology, which protects against oil migration from electrical transformers, was also used to protect over 5 miles of coastline from oil after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
  • Emerson Power Transmission Solutions (Florence, KY) Produces power transmission drives, components, and bearings.
  • General Cable (Highland Heights, KY) Sells a full array of cables needed for wind turbines to generate, distribute, and transmit energy.
  • Link-Belt (Lexington, KY) Manufactures telescopic, lattice, and crawler cranes used for wind turbine tower construction.
  • MAG Industrial Automation Systems (Erlanger, KY) Is a leading machine tool and systems company serving the renewable and durable goods industries.
  • Mubea, Inc. (Florence, KY) Kentucky’s manufacturing facility produces disc springs used in the safety breaks for wind turbines.
  • World Tower Company (Mayfield, KY) Manufactures and installs lattice, guyed, and self-supporting towers used for wind assessment or supporting wind turbines.

Despite the wind energy industry presence in Kentucky already, if the state is going to achieve the Department of Energy’s scenario to develop 100 MW – 1,000 MW worth of wind capacity and generate up to 10,000 in-state manufacturing jobs by 2030, the state will need to recognize renewable energy as a valuable economic engine. Kentucky should work to diversify their energy economy with renewable energy sources and the state’s federal delegates should propose and support stable tax incentives for the wind industry.  If you would like to get involved in promoting renewable energy in Kentucky, be sure to check out SACE’s Advokit.

Be sure to read the other blogs in this series for Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

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