|Turbines at a wind farm in Wyoming|
(Wyoming Public Media photo)
The wind companies are looking to snap up oil-and-gas workers who are looking for jobs, figuring that those workers "have skills that are transferrable to the wind industry," such as working in hazardous conditions with heavy machinery, Goldwind Americas CEO David Halligan told Richards.
At the first meeting in Rawlins, more than 100 people showed up. In Casper, 40 came. The final seminar will be in Gillette, the "center of the nation's coal industry." The companies will offer free training for wind technicians, and hope to employ many of them on a planned 600- to 800-turbine farm near Medicine Bow. Wind technician is the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., and is expected to grow another 108 percent over the next 10 years. And though Wyoming has been a coal powerhouse for the past 40 years, the industry is increasingly changing to other sources of power such as natural gas and renewable energy.
Some local politicians acknowledge that wind farms could be good for the economy of Wyoming. "I'm a former, probably, wind hater," Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, told Richards. "I was raised in Midwest, [where] it's all about oil and gas and coal. But I think I've kind of jumped over that fence in the last year because of these realities coming at us."