This post considers the employment which would be created by building wind turbines rather than the $700-million Chinook natural gas power station recently proposed by SaskPower for Swift Current.
In short: If wind turbines are built, instead of Chinook, they will employ more than three times as many people in construction and more than twice as many during operations.
So, and if jobs is the metric, wind is the clear winner.
For the detail - read on;
SaskPower is proposing to build a new, $700-million, 350 megawatt, gas-fired power station (Chinook) just outside of Swift Current. It hopes to have it completed and commissioned by end 2019.
In response, and on 18 October, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency requested public input as to whether a Federal Environmental Assessment would be required for the project. We responded and, in so doing, questioned the need for Chinook since the same amount of electricity could be generated, at significantly lower cost and with substantially reduced environmental impacts, by wind energy.
Our submission did not, intentionally, consider employment: so we take a look at it here.
SaskPower says Chinook will create "up to" 500 jobs during construction and 25 once operational.
So how does this compare with wind energy? The best way to find out is to look at some representative wind projects from across Canada. Included below is a sample drawn from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
South Canoe Wind Farm, Nova Scotia. This 34-turbine, 102 megawatt Nova Scotia project is 49 percent owned by the monopoly (coal-dominated as it would happen) utility - Nova Scotia Power. The other 51 percent is owned by two local companies: as a result the project enjoys strong community support.
Clearance work commenced at the site in June 2014 and the project was officially opened one year later in June 2015. Over the one year construction, a total of 1,000 people were employed at various times with an average of 200 on site and a maximum of 500 during peak construction periods. In operations the project employs nine people full time.
Seigneurie de Beaupré, Quebec. This is the largest wind farm in Canada with a capacity of 363 megawatts. The project consisted of three distinct construction phases: Phase 1: 2011-2013. 272 megawatts, Phase 2: 2012-2014. 68 megawatts and the Community Component: 2013-2015. 25 megawatts.
A press release from one of the owners of the project - Valener - notes Phase I required 1.5 million hours of labour. Since there are about 1,600 working hours in a year - this represents around 1,000 person years of employment or 500 people employed full time for the two year construction period. The Seigneurie de Beaupré web site further notes the entire wind farm employs 30 people, full time, in operations.
South Kent Wind Farm, Ontario. This 124-turbine, 270 megawatt facility was built over 12 months and during construction had an average of 300 workers on site full time with a maximum of 500 workers during peak construction periods. In operations it employs 20 people full time.
K2 Wind Power, Ontario. This 140-turbine, 270 megawatt project had an average of 300 workers on site during its construction period with more than 400 during peak construction activity. Initial land clearing started in late 2013 and commercial operations started in May 2015. In operations it employs 20 full-time staff.
Halkirk Wind Farm,Alberta. Project construction for this 83-turbine, 150 megawatt facility started in March 2012 and it was commissioned in December of the same year. It created 270 jobs during the construction phase and 18 full time, permanent, jobs during operations.
Meikle Wind, British Columbia. The construction schedule saw the beginning of land clearance on this 61-turbine, 180 megawatt project in October 2014. It should be commissioned later this month. An average of 150 workers were employed during the construction period with 275 on-site during peak periods. Once operational the facility will employ 9 people full time in addition to a number of sub-contractors.
So much for the data - however one cannot do a direct comparison between these six wind projects and Chinook. The reason is each has different installed capacities and will also generate different amounts of electricity. The information therefore has to be converted into a comparable metric. The obvious one to use is 'installed generation capacity' (typically measured in megawatts). This is certainly useful but, in isolation, misleading. The reason? The 350 megawatt Chinook Power Station will generate about twice as much electricity as a 350 megawatt wind farm. In other words two times more wind energy needs to be built in order to generate the same amount of electricity as Chinook.
All of this material is summarised in the following;
Columns one to four and column six of the table are self explanatory and show the installed capacity, expected annual electricity generation, the capacity factor, the average number of people employed during the construction period and the number employed during operations, for each of the projects. Columns five (# per 100 MW) and seven (# per TWh) require a bit of explanation. Column five simply divides the average number of employees on site during construction by the project installed capacity and so provides the number of people employed per 100 megawatts of capacity installed. The last column simply divides the number of full time staff by the number of terawatt hours of electricity the project will generate in a typical year and so provides a metric of the number people who will be employed per unit of electricity generated.
The final row ('Swift Current Wind') shows a single hypothetical wind project (of 700 megawatts) which would have to be built in order to generate as much electricity as the Chinook gas plant. The reality is that several wind projects would be built to replace Chinook - however considering them as a single project makes things simpler. Using the weighted average of the actual 'Employment per 100 MW' (138.3) and 'Employment per TWh' (22) for the six wind farms across Canada; it is easy to estimate the hypothetical 'Swift Current Wind' would employ 3.2 times more people (968 versus 300) than Chinook during construction and 2.3 times more people (57 versus 25) during operations.
So there you have it - when it comes to employment: wind energy rocks it.
And another myth busted!