Advanced energy can grow Virginia’s economy and create good jobs

New report shows Virginia could support 19,000 jobs per year in wind energy and composite materials manufacturing
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Date Published: April 11, 2016

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Building on Virginia’s strengths in offshore wind and composite materials industries can maximize job growth and give the state a competitive economic edge. That’s according to the Virginia Jobs Project, a new report created in partnership with Virginia Tech and led by the American Jobs Project. The report is funded by The JPB Foundation, the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

“Our research shows that smart policies and a focus on industrial clusters can allow states to become hubs of innovation and job creation in advanced energy industries that dovetail with a state’s own strengths,” said Mary Collins, program manager for the American Jobs Project.

“For Virginia, this approach could employ an average of almost 19,000 people annually in the wind and advanced composites industries over the next 15 years,” Collins said.

Millions of Americans lost good-paying jobs during the recession, and unfortunately, many of the jobs created during the recovery have been in low-skill, low-paying occupations. In contrast, the Virginia Jobs Project proposes innovative strategies and policies designed to create thousands of skilled jobs that pay well for Virginians today and into the future and informed by principles of competition, local control, and less red tape.

The report recommends innovative strategies to support job creation by capitalizing on growing market opportunities and aligning manufacturing with critical economic system components, including access to capital, innovation ecosystems, and workforce development.

The Virginia Jobs Project finds that:

  • In recent years, Virginia has spent more than $13 billion annually to import fuel to the commonwealth. Virginia can prevent the steady loss of capital that could otherwise be spent within the commonwealth by further developing the offshore wind and composite materials industries.
  • Offshore wind manufacturing is an opportunity for Virginia to produce more locally generated energy and for the state to export wind turbine components along the east coast.
  • The commonwealth has a strategic advantage in offshore wind manufacturing due to the to the Port of Virginia’s favorable depth and location along the east coast, federal support for the 12 MW Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), and a regional grid operating system capable of transmitting wind-generated energy.
  • Virginia could support 14,000 jobs annually in the offshore wind industry through 2030.
  • A carbon fiber composite manufacturing industry is advantageous for Virginia due to its existing materials manufacturing firms, foreign companies’ desire for new U.S. manufacturing facilities, rapid industry growth, vast end use potential, including wind turbines blades, transportation, construction, medical applications, and sports equipment.
  • Virginia could support 5,000 jobs annually in the composites industry through 2030.

“I am pleased to have been part of this project, seeing how it examined a set of integrated systems focusing on innovation and the enhancement of Virginia’s economy and human resource base,” said Dr. Richard Hirsh, Professor of History of Technology and Science & Technology Studies at Virginia Tech. “As importantly, the study demonstrates that the commonwealth has great potential to develop expertise in the mutually beneficial, high-tech industries of composite material manufacturing and large-scale wind turbines. Policymakers in the business and government communities should pay close attention to this report.”

The American Jobs Project website, which launched this month, features reports on Virginia and nine other states, as well as a Policy Bank detailing best practices and innovative ideas for advanced energy job growth. To learn more, or to download a copy of the Virginia report, visit