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Offshore wind jobs are set to rocket, NREL study says

The sector currently employs fewer than 1,000, but may need to add more than 50,000 jobs every year from 2024 to 2030.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published a study that examines future U.S. offshore wind workforce growth and identifies future workforce development needs. 

The report estimates that the offshore wind industry will need an average of between 15,000 and 58,000 full-time jobs every year from 2024 to 2030, depending on the amount of American-made content used. That is an expected increase from fewer than 1,000 jobs today, NREL said. 

Most of the new jobs would be in manufacturing, and could bolster a domestic supply chain for offshore wind energy. Other jobs are likely in project development, wind turbine installation (including ports and vessels), and ongoing operations and maintenance.  

The hunt for talent is not limited to the offshore wind sector. Clean energy’s talent crunch bears a resemblance to the tech industry’s fight for software engineers over the past two decades, industry leaders say. They say there aren’t enough pathways for people to enter the industry. And like the tech industry did years earlier, clean energy has created a new class of engineers.

Experts say the industry must “draw in new talent from non-traditional sources and paths.” What’s more, companies should look to develop and elevate talent from within to help meet their needs.

(Read “Date is set for California offshore wind lease auction.”)

NREL’s first-of-its-kind U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment identified a number of actions that it said are needed to meet the demand for offshore wind energy jobs:  

  • Attract and train skilled tradespeople, who represent the largest pool of potential offshore wind energy workers 
  • Standardize and create clear, accessible pathways for workers to obtain required safety and other skills training 
  • Help workers from similar fields, including offshore oil and gas, transition into the offshore wind energy industry 
  • Prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives to attract and retain more members of underrepresented and underserved populations 
  • Ensure coordination and collaboration between industry stakeholders and regional partners on major workforce challenges through efforts like the DOE-sponsored Offshore Wind Workforce Network. 

The report said the number of new offshore wind jobs also depends on growth in manufacturing, supply chains, and related sectors. Those industries will need to work with the wind energy industry to produce the components, parts, and materials to build, install, and maintain offshore wind turbines. 

40 training programs

The report pegged average annual employment levels from 2024 to 2030 for the project development sector at between 800 and 3,200 based on 25% and 100% domestic content scenarios, respectively. 

It said the workforce need likely will be closer to the upper limit as project development efforts already are underway, and many development jobs for initial offshore wind projects have been hired. 

Turning to manufacturing and supply chain, the report said that average annual employment from 2024 to 2030 could range from 12,300 and 49,000, again based on the amount of domestic content. The largest contribution would be factory-level workers. The report said the greatest potential for employment is through U.S.-based suppliers to produce subcomponents, parts, and materials for offshore wind energy components.

Offshore wind energy education opportunities at community colleges, maritime academies, and universities offer more than 40 training programs, the report said. The states with the highest number of existing offshore wind energy workforce training programs are Massachusetts (12 programs), New York (10), New Jersey (5), and Maryland (4).

Read the report here.

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