“Anyone who wants to work, there’s work available,” says Al Roder, administrator of Harper County, Kansas, a region that is experiencing an unusual energy boom as the result of wind turbine installations alongside expanded oil drilling.
Wind turbines and oil rigs now exist side by side in Kansas and both industries have brought a wealth of jobs and revenue to the small towns in the area.
Kansas’ southern border towns have welcomed BP Wind Energy which began construction this year on the largest wind farm in the state. The wind farm spans three counties and employees over 500 area residents, both directly and indirectly.
BP itself only employees about 15 employees at this point in time, but hundreds more are involved in BP’s wind project on a contracted basis. Those positions are filled by construction workers, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, welders, electricians and mechanics.
The oil industry is another huge employer in Kansas; hundreds depend on the oil companies for jobs. Fracking and exploration companies are exploring the oil potential of the Mississippian limestone formation, believing that it contains a vast oil reserve worth billions.
Administrator Roder said the effect on the state from the two industries is comparable. “They’re both putting a strain on housing, and they’re both bringing more traffic to restaurants but also creating a lot of truck traffic on the roads,” he said.
When the BP wind farm project wraps up at the end of the year, the majority of those jobs will end, leaving only about 30 people employed full-time operating the wind turbines. This $800 million investment encompasses 300 wind turbines across 66,000 acres and three counties.
The turbines will produce enough electricity to power 125,000 homes across the United States each year.