A constant argument against building clean and renewable energy facilities is that the construction of these facilities is temporary work and won’t bring any long-term economic benefit to North Carolina. This argument is just simply wrong.
All construction is temporary. When a contractor builds a house they eventually finish the construction process and someone moves in. It’s the same with the construction of anything – a house, an apartment building, a factory, or a new power generation facility. At some point in time the construction is complete and the contractor and their employees move on to the next project.
The contractors that build each solar or wind farm for renewable energy production are no different than the contractors that are hired to build nuclear power plants. They have employees that are specialists in their field, they hire other contractors to help with the project, and they use local businesses for everything from high tech material supplies to food for employee lunches.
The true ongoing, long-term jobs are gained through the maintenance of facilities after they are up and running. For both traditional and renewable power generation, the facilities require ongoing maintenance and repair that employs local citizens for the entire lifespan of the facility.
A great example is here in North Carolina. The Amazon Wind Farm, proposed for Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, will create around 250 construction jobs for over a year, and require at least 14 full-time operations and maintenance employees for the life of the wind farm. These jobs pay an average of $80,000 per year.
These up-front and ongoing jobs and investments can have a huge impact on the state’s economy. According to a 2015 clean energy industry census, clean energy accounted for well-over 25,000 jobs in North Carolina. Between 2008 and 2015, the construction and maintenance of renewable energy facilities pumped over $2 billion of investments into the state’s economy.
A majority of these investments, or nearly 75% of them, were made in the poorest counties in the state. This infusion of capital has helped those that live in the most rural, and least developed, parts of North Carolina find employment – employment that has disappeared over the last generation as the state has moved from an agricultural to a modern economy.
In fact, internationally recognized corporations like Google, Facebook, and Apple have both cited clean energy policies as the reason they considered our state for their new facilities. They have invested their own money into advancing the use of new renewable technologies for power generation and continue to do so in our state.
By any economic indicator or statistic, the clean energy industry has pumped billions of dollars into the North Carolina economy, and those investments will bring ongoing improvements to local communities and businesses for generations to come. When it comes to making a decision about what new power generation facilities to build and where, the choices should be clear.