China has been the leader in renewable energy for some years now — it produces more solar and wind power than any other country and it invests the most in renewable sources.
And like any good leader, China is helping other countries make the switch to clean energy.
At least that’s what’s happening in the US.
Last week, the Chinese wind-farm manufacturer Goldwind traveled to Wyoming to announce its plan to train former coal workers to become wind technicians. The training program is called Goldwind Works and it will begin with a series of meetings and a safety training class in Wyoming.
The best part: it's entirely free for the trainees.
The company is supplying 850 wind turbines for a massive wind farm that will be built over a retired a coal mine in a place called Carbon County.
It’s the perfect before-and-after story — a plot of land goes from producing dirty energy to clean energy, and workers go from a dead-end industry to an industry with limitless potential.
This isn't Goldwind's first farm in the US. Their US division has launched numerous projects and, according to The New York Times, always courts local partners for new ventures. Globally, Goldwind operates in 17 countries.
“If we can tap into that market and also help out folks that might be experiencing some challenges in the workforce today, I think that it can be a win-win situation,” chief executive of Goldwind’s US division David Halligan, told The New York Times. “If you’re a wind technician, you obviously can’t be afraid of heights. You have to be able to work at heights, and you have to be able to work at heights in a safe manner.”
Wyoming produces the 42% of the US’s coal and politicians are so reluctant to give up the mineral that they’re trying to keep other energy sources away. To that end, they’re the only state that taxes wind power. Nearly every other state either adds to or merely accepts the large federal subsidies available for renewable energy.
This tax has deterred wind companies from entering what would otherwise be the ideal state — sparsely populated expanses that have a lot of wind.
The Goldwind farm could begin to change that, especially when it becomes clear that well-paid jobs are on the table.
Even without renewable energy, coal is being squeezed economically. Hundreds of coal jobs in Wyoming have been lost this year alone, according to Quartz, and that’s mainly because natural gas is a cheaper and lower carbon emitting-form of energy.
Training these workers to become wind technicians could both give these people stable jobs but it will also build support for renewable energy in the state.
Other states in the Midwest have already discovered the benefits of renewable energy.
Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Minnesota, and Illinois are six of the seven biggest producers of wind energy in the country. Texas in particular generates more wind power than the next three states combined, which shows that renewable energy has bipartisan appeal.
China first accelerated the solar energy boom in the US through cheaper solar panel production. Now the country is setting its sights on the vast empty plains in the continental US.
If clean energy and jobs are the final result, then seems like a win-win all around.