Wind Energy FAQs: Offshore Wind Employment

U.S. Employment potential in Offshore Wind

There are currently only two offshore wind farms in the US: the five-turbine, 10 megawatt (MW) ‘Block Island’ project offshore Rhode Island and the two-turbine, 12 MW, CVOW offshore Virginia Beach) so current employment is low. However, there are big plans for offshore wind over the next 15 years: the industry expects to install 20-30 gigawatts (GW) between now and 2035 and almost all of this capacity will be on the Eastern Seaboard between North Carolina and Massachusetts.

Multiple studies have been carried out to estimate the likely level of employment arising from the 20 GW. One of the best ones is ‘US Offshore Wind Power Economic Impact Assessment‘ undertaken by the American Wind Energy Association in early 2020.  It notes the current 30 GW pipeline of projects represents almost $60-bn of investment in the US economy and estimates the industry could support 45,000 jobs by 2025 in addition to 80,000+ jobs, and $25-bn in annual economic output, by 2030. In addition, the development, construction, and operation of OSW projects in the U.S. will deliver annual economic output totaling as much as $14-bn in 2025 and $25-bn in 2030.

If that all sounds a bit fanciful: consider that US onshore wind grew from supporting 100 domestic manufacturing facilities and 50,000 jobs in 2007 to more than 500 facilities and 114,000 jobs today. At the end of 2020, the installed capacity of US onshore wind was 120 GW, which represents a 7X increase from 2007. Offshore wind is set for a similarly rapid expansion, creating new opportunities for port revitalization and vessel construction.

Another useful reference study is ‘US Job Creation from Offshore Wind‘ although this is from 2017 and so now a little dated. In an illustration of how fast the industry is growing, the ‘Upper’ scenario of 8 GW by 2030, considered in this report, is far below the 20 GW now expected by 2035. The report is nonetheless of interest since not only does it estimate the number of jobs but also provides a comprehensive breakdown of how those jobs will be split across different segments within the supply chain.