Area wind farms bring in construction jobs

Rebecca Susmarski | The Register-Mail

GALESBURG — Area wind farms brought in many jobs during their construction phases, but not as many jobs remained after the projects’ completion.

Invenergy LLC’s Bishop Hill I and Bishop Hill III wind farms in Henry County provided approximately 220 and 214 jobs, respectively, at the pinnacle of each project’s construction. The former project currently offers 14 full-time positions and the latter has five.

Beth Conley, senior manager of strategic communications for Invenergy, estimated that approximately one-third of the construction jobs for both projects were filled by Henry County residents. She could not provide how many of the current jobs are filled by county residents.

“All jobs for these projects were filled by union labor and were high-paying with an excellent benefits package,” Conley said.

Some of the construction jobs that wind farm companies look to fill include wind turbine technicians; civil and environmental engineers; equipment operators; carpenters; iron workers; and others. The 2017 median salary for a wind turbine technician was $53,880 per year and the median salary for a civil engineer was $84,770 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The number of jobs a wind farm creates depends on the size and scope of the project, both for construction and permanent jobs. Paul Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, said some Avangrid projects included more than 500 workers during construction.

Avangrid plans to bring a fourth wind farm, its Midland project, to Henry County and has already installed seven meteorological towers to gauge the wind source. The company anticipates that the project will involve more than 100 construction workers and provide about four to six full-time positions post-construction.

Copleman said Avangrid works with contractors to hire local firms for its projects. He added that the company hired about three-fourths of its construction workers from within Illinois for its two past wind projects in the Prairie State. The other two established Avangrid wind farms in Illinois include the Providence Heights project in Bureau County and the Streator Cayuga Ridge South project in Livingston County.

“We work hard to hire locally wherever possible, and have been very successful doing that at our 60 wind and solar projects around the country,” Copleman said.

Invenergy also completed the Bishop Hill II project in Henry County, which BHE Renewables acquired in 2012 under the name MidAmerican Renewables. BHE did not respond to questions about the project’s jobs prior to The Register-Mail’s deadline.

Read the piece at The Galesburg Register-Mail.