MinnPost: Clean energy jobs are big in Minnesota. But they often go to people from out of state

Walker Orenstein - August 16, 2019


The fastest growing jobs in the country are solar panel installers and wind turbine service technicians, a fact that clean energy advocates use as evidence of a growing sector and the economic upside of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

But in Minnesota, the rise of clean energy isn’t always resulting in new jobs for Minnesotans — at least when it comes to building wind projects. A report released Thursday by the Minnesota and North Dakota chapter of the Laborers’ International Union of North America says wind developers heavily rely on traveling workers, often from other states, even though there’s been an uptick in local hiring for the construction jobs this year.

Lucas Franco, the LIUNA branch’s research manager, says workers from states like Texas, Utah and California are often cheaper and can make up the bulk of a project in Minnesota. In-state residents or workers living within 150 miles of a major wind farm in Pipestone County accounted for 32 percent of construction hours worked, for example. Preliminary research done by LIUNA also suggests solar developers often lean on out-of-state workers for construction, Franco said.

“It’s a big concern for us, particularly in the context of this moment, of our energy infrastructure transition that we’re in,” he said. “A lot of clean energy advocates are trying to build popular support for new wind and solar projects, and I think that’s hard to do when folks in the conventional energy sector are losing their work and not necessarily finding work building wind farms or solar farms.”

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