Their jobs involve dangling 300 feet in the air and roping the blade of a wind turbine. The work comes with a view across the Wyoming prairie and a view well into the future.
Wind turbine jobs are expected to be the fastest growing jobs in America between now and 2024, growing 108 percent.
The turbines stand on reclaimed land covering a coal mine that was worked for almost 50 years. But increasingly, Wyoming’s energy comes not from mining what’s down below, but from mining the wind above.
In Wyoming, the top coal-producing state in America, wind now provides 10 times more energy than it did a decade ago. And that may just be the beginning. A Chinese company is recruiting workers for wind turbines it hopes to build in Wyoming, and will even pay for training.
Steve Harshman, Republican speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, said he has no problem with the Chinese creating Wyoming jobs.
“There is so much integration in economies around the world,” he said. “I think it’s all about free markets and I think we all support that.”
Travis Harkins traded his coal job to work in wind, a decision he made with his wife Sam and three active boys very much in mind.
“When I was in coal, I had a concern about how I was going to provide for my family,” he said. “Wind generation definitely opened up a whole new avenue for me. And a lot more opportunity.”
People here have long boasted about being America’s biggest coal producer. Now they’re learning to embrace the winds of change and with it, a lot of new jobs.