PNS Daily Newscast - July 19, 2019 

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Coal Workers Could Transition to Renewable-Energy Sector

Wind-power generation in Montana has more than doubled over the past five years. (Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr)
Wind-power generation in Montana has more than doubled over the past five years. (Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr)
August 24, 2016

HELENA, Mont. - The growth of solar- and wind-related jobs could easily absorb coal-industry layoffs over the next 15 years and provide full-time careers, if investments are made to retrain workers, according to a new study from Oregon State University and Michigan Technological University.

Between solar and wind resources, said Edward Louie, the report's co-author, Montana is in a good position to become more energy independent and a leading exporter of renewable power.

"To transport the wind blades, to install the wind turbines - and then also, all the jobs it would take to upgrade the transmission lines to handle a high percent of renewables," he said. "Then there's more than enough positions."

The Department of Energy has estimated that by 2030, Montana's wind-power industry could create 17,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs, and produce more than 5,000 megawatts of power. The state ranks in the top five for potential wind production.

The solar industry already employs more than 200,000 people and is creating jobs 12 times faster than the overall economy, according to the study, which also determined the closest equivalent solar positions and salaries. Louie said a coal operations engineer, for example, could retrain to be a manufacturing technician in solar, and expect about a 10 percent salary increase.

"Obviously, there are some jobs that are very specific to coal mining," he said, "and those workers will probably need some retraining to find a job in the renewable-energy industry."

The study also noted that a coal-company chief executive's annual salary would be more than enough to retrain every company employee for a job in renewables. Louie said other possible funding sources include federal and state dollars, and coal workers also could choose to pay for training themselves.

The report is online at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT