Offshore Wind Energy Workforce Assessment
NREL’s experts are evaluating potential offshore wind energy workforce gaps and opportunities to fill them to meet the country’s aggressive clean energy goals.
To meet the Biden administration’s goal of reaching 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030, the offshore wind energy industry must significantly grow its workforce. To better understand what the industry—and its workforce—may need to achieve that growth, NREL researchers are working with industry partners to assess potential workforce gaps and opportunities.
With support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office, NREL published an initial report on their investigations in 2021, titled Power Sector, Supply Chain, Jobs, and Emissions Implications of 30 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Power by 2030. To reach the 30-GW target, the authors found, the offshore wind energy industry would need to employ more than 44,000 workers in offshore wind energy by 2030 and nearly 33,000 more in communities supported by offshore wind energy activity.
These high-level estimates provide a general baseline. But more precise details—such as which sectors, including manufacturing and installation, will see the highest job growth or what training programs are needed to prepare workers for these jobs—can help industry and governments plan ways to promote this workforce growth.
To follow up on that initial report, NREL conducted a nationwide study to examine how many workers and what kinds of jobs the workforce might need to meet the 30-GW target. Although several states have conducted their own state-specific workforce assessments, no national-level evaluation existed until NREL’s U.S. offshore wind energy workforce assessment.
For the assessment, the NREL team conducted a deeper analysis for all segments of the offshore wind energy industry to provide a more nuanced, precise estimate of the range of potential offshore wind energy workforce needs between 2024 and 2030 (based on scenarios with 25% and 100% domestic content). The team collected data to better understand potential job roles and requirements, workforce training programs, and opportunities to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion or help workers transition from similar fields into the offshore wind energy industry.
The team collected its data from several sources, including:
- The annual offshore wind energy market assessment, in which NREL researchers evaluate and share information on the U.S. offshore wind energy pipeline (including approved and announced plans to build more offshore wind energy plants) and The Demand for a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain, a 2022 report in which NREL authors provide data about demand for specific components (such as wind turbines, foundations, vessels, and cables)
- Feedback from quarterly stakeholder meetings, convened through the Offshore Wind Workforce Network, which included 150 representatives across several universities, industry groups, companies, unions, community colleges, original equipment manufacturers, maritime academies, and federal and state governments
- Reviews of job postings and publications to compile details of job roles and requirements
- Systematic outreach conducted with current education and training programs as well as online searches for additional developmental programs.
To validate the maritime construction workforce, the team also conducted interviews with offshore wind plant developers, union leaders, maritime and offshore safety trainers, educators, offshore wind energy personnel and logistics experts, and vessel operators.
Needs for Workforce Growth
The results of the assessment, published in October 2022, indicate that, among other findings and advice to meet workforce demand, the U.S. offshore wind energy industry needs to or should:
- Employ an average between 15,000 and 58,000 full-time workers every year between 2024 to 2030 (based on 25% and 100% domestic content scenarios)
- Attract and train skilled tradespeople who represent the largest pool of potential offshore wind energy workers, including from similar fields, such as oil and gas
- Prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives to involve underrepresented and underserved populations
- Ensure coordination and collaboration between industry stakeholders and global, national, regional, and state partners on major workforce challenges through efforts such as the Offshore Wind Workforce Network.
To further analyze the potential for workforce growth within the U.S. offshore wind energy industry, the NREL team continues to meet with stakeholders through the Offshore Wind Workforce Network.
Together, the group will discuss other potential topics to explore, such as:
- The geographic dispersion of job growth across the United States
- How regional approaches and collaborations could influence the workforce
- When jobs might be added to which sectors.
The workforce assessment team also continues to spread awareness about this potential workforce growth to members of the public.
And, as new wind energy plants are built and jobs are added, the team will track how the workforce actually develops over time and assess any new offshore wind plant commitments to estimate their impacts on workforce growth.
U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Workforce Assessment, NREL Technical Report (2022)
Offshore Wind Workforce Safety Standards & Training Resource, U.S. Department of Energy WINDExchange Resource (2023)
Offshore Wind Energy Workforce Development Best Practices Resource, U.S. Department of Energy WINDExchange Resource (2023)