In our last post we mentioned that wind energy farms help keep jobs local in rural areas. But there are many other benefits from the wind energy industry for these communities that you might not realize. We bet by the time you're done reading this post, you're going to feel even better about using renewable energy and the future of many rural American economies.
Almost 63% of the country's electricity is generated by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas and coal. But that percentage used to be significantly greater ten years ago. Usage is now at about where it was in the mid 1980s. Regions that relied on coal mining as their chief industry, such as Central Appalachia and Wyoming, have been suffering the loss in production for decades.
There are many reasons for this, besides the imposition of environmental regulations, such as the industry moving towards automation to retirement of mines to just plain running out of coal. There's also competition from low-sulfur coal in the western United States and natural gas from shale fracking. This has left communities struggling to keep residents and, for some, to keep public services going.
But there is a silver lining. Wind energy companies are offering training to unemployed miners who have already worked with large equipment in dangerous settings where safety training was key. Former miners are also being trained in solar panel installation, beekeeping and aquaculture programs, like the one in Kentucky where an old mine site is being turned into a solar-powered fish farm.
Thankfully, there are plenty of clean energy jobs. Nationally, wind energy employs more people than coal mining and electricity generation. Solar provides more jobs than oil, coal and natural gas combined.
There are many areas that were never part of the conventional fuel extraction industry, like Nebraska and Kansas, that are traditionally small and agrarian. The wind energy industry is creating “drought-proof” farms of another kind that could keep locals employed from miles around, and is giving farmers and ranchers who are leasing their land out to wind turbines, a monetary boost that doesn't change the way they do business and that provides a steady income when business isn't doing so well.
And their surrounding communities, school districts especially, are enjoying the increased funds for materials and facilities from local tax revenue. An Ohio K-12 school was able to create two new academic programs, helping them invest back into their younger generation.
Therefore, renewable energy is not only good for the environment, but for the revitalization of many rural economies. As we transition from dirty, risky fuel sources to those that help keep our environment clean, we can keep jobs at home and create new career legacies for future generations. How long before folks say wind energy is their family business?
What are your thoughts? We want to read them in the comments.