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To help developers more readily estimate the economic benefits of offshore wind plants, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a new version of the Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) input-output modeling tool. The original tool was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to estimate the economic impacts of constructing renewable power plants. The updated version allows users to better understand the potential regional economic impacts of offshore wind development.

DOE is using the new offshore version of JEDI to examine four regions of the country. Two studies published to date focus on the Southeast and Great Lakes regions. The Southeast study includes Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, while the Great Lakes study includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Actual economic impacts to a state or region depend on many different factors, but the JEDI model provides one tool to estimate impacts for different scenarios. JEDI estimates regional impacts based on either project-specific inputs entered by the user, or default inputs based on industry norms.

The JEDI model for the Southeast presented five offshore wind deployment scenarios ranging from a low of 950 megawatts (MW) of offshore generation capacity in 2020 to a high of 9,800 MW by 2030. The new model estimated—using an average scenario—that offshore wind energy projects would yield approximately 4,200 total jobs by 2020 and an average of nearly 12,000 jobs thereafter through 2030.

The Great Lakes study considered three offshore wind development scenarios that examined different levels of capacity installed, regional supply chain development, and construction and operation costs. Offshore wind installations range from a low of 250 MW by 2020 to a high of 5,000 MW by 2030. Any scenario's economic impact will depend on the level of development and portion of expenditures made within the Great Lakes region. In the moderate scenario, offshore wind energy development is estimated to support approximately 1,850 total jobs in 2020 and an average of approximately 3,710 annually through 2030.

The user-friendly JEDI models are designed to support county and state decision-makers, public utility commissions, potential project owners, developers, and others interested in analyzing the economic impacts associated with new or existing power plants, fuel production facilities, or other projects. JEDI can be downloaded free of charge.