Come 2030, the wind energy industry will generate employment and GDP on par with oil and gas exploration and extraction sector, or aquaculture.
A BERL report for the New Zealand Wind Energy Association, Economic Benefits of Wind Farms in New Zealand, is the first to identify current employment in the industry and its potential growth.
At the end of 2011 there were 16 operating wind farms, mostly concentrated in the Wairarapa-Manawatu and Wellington regions. And while the sector is still small, by 2030 it is expected to mature to the point where it generates 764 full-time employees, on par with the hydro-electricity generation industry (771 FTEs), oil and gas extraction (592 FTEs), and gas supply (540 FTEs), with a total of 1,400 jobs associated with wind farms.
Most employment is generated in the construction and installation phase, but beyond that, operations and maintenance would then make up 65 percent of wind energy jobs in 2030.
"Many of these jobs will be located outside of New Zealand's big cities, where opportunities for skilled, well-paid employment are limited," said Eric Pyle, chief eExecutive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association.
"As we've seen happen in the oil and gas industry, the growing wind industry will provide opportunities for Kiwi companies to develop products and services for the domestic and international wind markets."
The report uses an approach based on multiplying existing employment by the amount of wind farms that will be developed.
"Over time, New Zealand companies will provide services that are currently provided overseas. This pattern of growing local content occurred in the oil and gas exploration industries and there is no reason to assume that it won’t happen in the wind industry," the report said.
But it has not taken into account this “home grown” effect, and therefore, job numbers may be understated.
Businesses likely to benefit from the wind energy industry's expansion include those involved in consulting services, finance and other business services, retail trade, component manufacturing, industrial goods distribution, and construction.
In terms of GDP, the wind energy industry in 2030 is slated to be comparable in economic activity to metal ore mining ($84 million) and aquaculture ($93 million). In 2011, the wind energy industry contributed $65 million to GDP.