Wind energy may be hot, but can it create jobs?


Washington has a well kept secret that most people on the West side of the mountains probably haven’t heard. If you listen closely, you just might hear it whistling past your open window. According to a study compiled by Washington State University employees, Washington has the fifth largest installed wind capacity in the United States. On top of that, the demand for wind turbines is rapidly outpacing the supply, leaving an employment vacancy that may soon be filled.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting that the demand for wind power will fuel growth. “The industry's growth should increase demand for skilled workers,” it wrote in a recent report. However, there is speculation that the growth will begin to slow down in as little as five years. While there are several large wind projects on the horizon in Washington State, mostly notably a PSE project on the lower Snake River, the majority of the prime real estate for wind farms has been accounted for.

New projects are likely to move inward toward the central United States where there is more pristine land for wind-based power generation. However, there is a possibility that privately held land, mostly farm land, will be available for windmills in Washington. When a windmill is built on privately held land, the power company pays a stipend to the land owner.

Alan Hardcastle, a Senior Research Associate at WSU, has been investigating wind energy as part of the WSU’s Extension Energy Program. Hardcastle believes that there will be growth in the wind sector and that jobs will become available.

These jobs will fall into two main categories. The first category is planning, which includes construction, zoning and design. These jobs will depend largely on the number of wind farms that Washington constructs each year, and could decline rapidly if the demand for wind power in Washington decreases.

The second category is maintenance and repair. Although maintaining windmills doesn’t require a large workforce, there is a possibility that the demand for the job will increase, especially when the currently aging workforce retires.

Although Hardcastle predicts that jobs in the windmill and wind power sector will see at least moderate growth, he admits that the education system is currently not setup to handle the training required for these jobs. There are wind programs available, like a wind technician class in Vancouver that students can complete in six months.

Hardcastle thinks that preparing students for a field as limited as wind may not be as effective as providing them with a broader skill set, like focusing on energy in general. After completing an energy degree, students can earn a certificate in their desired field, or even earn multiple certificates so that they have the ability to move between different fields.

Quick hit programs that provide only a specialized skill are great for filling job gaps, but they don’t create a hearty workforce that has the ability to grow with the industry, and in turn fuel industry growth. Because of Washington's established wind farms, it is possible that jobs could be created with the intent to train new wind farm technicians and other workers.

The 2016 Washington Manufacturing Awards: Legacy Award

The 2016 Washington Manufacturing Awards: Legacy Award

Winner: Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group
Legacy Award
Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group
Auburn ›
When it’s time to make doughnuts — or loaves of bread, or sheets of rolls — it could well be a Belshaw Adamatic piece of equipment that’s turning out the baked goods. From a 120,000-square-foot plant in Auburn, Belshaw Adamatic produces the ovens, fryers, conveyors and specialty equipment like jelly injectors used by wholesale and retail bakeries.
The firm’s two legacy companies — Belshaw started in 1923, Adamatic in 1962 — combined forces in 2007. Italy’s Ali Group North America is the parent.
It it takes work to maintain a legacy. A months-long strike in 2013 damaged morale and forced a leadership change. Frank Chandler was named president and CEO of Belshaw Adamatic in September 2013. The company has since strived to mend workplace relationships while also introducing a stream of new products, such as a convection oven, the BX Eco-touch, with energy saving features and steam injection that can be programmed for precise times in baking. The company energetically describes it as “an oven that saves time, reduces errors, makes an awesome product, and is fun to use and depend on every day!”
So far, more than 3,000 have been installed in quick-service restaurants, bakeries, cafés and supermarkets in the United States. They are the legacy of Thomas and Walter Belshaw, former builders of marine engines, who began producing patented manual and automated doughnut-making machines in Seattle 90 years ago. They sold thousands worldwide and, today, Belshaw Adamatic is the nation’s largest maker and distributor of doughnut-making equipment.