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Wind turbine expansion creates manufacturing jobs

One of the reasons the Green Energy Act was passed in Ontario in 2009 was the desire and the need to do something about the 100,000 manufacturing jobs that evaporated as a result of the Great Recession and North American auto industry collapse. Like Michigan, Ontario has an economy very dependent on and one that is the beneficiary of high-skilled, value-added manufacturing – cars and trucks in particular. And the vast majority of jobs in that industry are not in final assembly plants but in the supply-chain business.

Wind turbine manufacture is similar to the auto industry in many ways, but the key difference is that cars and trucks consume oil products (fossil fuel); wind turbines replace fossil fuel consumption. The difference is that a wind turbine pays back its “energy debt” in six to nine months of average operation, and for the remaining 25 or so years, the electricity made replaces pollution sourced electricity (nuclear, natural gas, coal). For Ontario, this also means the avoidance of money exported to Alberta to pay for imports of methane to burn to make electricity. And because Ontario has installed over 2,500 megawatts of wind turbine capacity, the average output of two boilers at Nanticoke have been replaced.

Recently, Siemens announced it had won the deal to supply 124 wind turbines for the South Kent farm. The immediate result is 150 new jobs at a blade factory in Tillsonburg, and 150 new jobs at a Windsor tower plant that will use steel made at the Algoma complex in Sault St. Marie. Such capital-intensive jobs typically have a job multiplier of four, so those 300 jobs become 1,200 jobs. There are roughly 8,000 parts in a modern wind turbine. Wind turbines are quite the middle-class, job-creation machines.

David Bradley

Buffalo