Wind Energy FAQs: Offshore Wind Employment

U.S. Employment potential in Offshore Wind

There is currently only a single offshore wind farm in the US (the five-turbine ‘Block Island’ project offshore Rhode Island) so current employment is low. However, there are big plans for offshore wind over the next 15 years: the industry expects to install about 20 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 is arguably ‘US Job Creation from Offshore Wind‘ dating from October 2017 although, in an illustration of how fast the industry is growing, the ‘Upper’ scenario of 8 GW by 2030 considered in this report, is already far below the 20 GW now expected.

Figure 4 from ‘US Job Creation in Offshore Wind’ shows the estimated number of jobs in Offshore Wind for each year from 2020 to 2030.

The report is nonetheless of interest since it provides not only a projected number of jobs but also a comprehensive breakdown of how those jobs will be split across different segments within the supply chain.

The chart to the right shows how the number of jobs rises rapidly from a low base in 2020 to a peak in 2024 before tailing off rapidly from 2030 onwards. It neatly illustrates the problem in giving a single figure for ‘offshore wind employment’: the numbers depend on the number of new projects being built versus those currently in operation.

While it may seem that there are few jobs once an offshore wind project is operational, there are actually about as many jobs created during the 25-year operation of a wind farm as there are created in its construction. More details of this are contained within the aforementioned report (Table 3).

Of course none of this answers the question of how many jobs will be created by the 20 GW by 2030 scenario. This is a hard question to answer for the reasons already mentioned. However, our opinion is that 30,000 (or 1,500 per GW) is a reasonable figure to use.

A rough check on the accuracy of this number can be taken from the onshore wind sector which, in the US, currently has an installed capacity of 100 GW and employs 115,000 people: In other words – 1,150 people per GW of installed capacity. The reason for the difference between the 1,150 persons/GW onshore and the 1,500 offshore, is that the offshore wind sector is expanding rapidly and hence there are more people employed in construction than in maintenance.