Hydroelectric dams produce 2,000 times as much energy per job as solar in Washington

Jul 25, 2019

In 2017, hydroelectric generation employed 2,460 people in Washington state. Solar electricity, by way of comparison, employed more than double that amount, 5,627 people. Hydro, however, generated 71 percent of Washington’s electricity. Solar produced less than one-tenth of one percent.

Each person working at a dam in Washington generated nearly 2,000 times as much electricity as those installing solar panels.

That information comes from the Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. When combined with energy production data for Washington state, it shows how productive hydroelectric generation is and how inefficient wind and solar are.

When it comes to job creation, the inefficiency of renewables is sometimes sold as a feature, not a bug. For every megawatt, solar “creates” more jobs than natural gas or hydro, greens proclaim. Of course, you could do the same with hydro power by simply requiring dams to hire 2,000 times as many people for the same work. Then it would “create” as may jobs as solar per megawatt hour. That approach, however, would be obviously ridiculous. And yet, it is the very thing greens celebrate with solar – its radical inefficiency.

Wind energy isn’t as bad. It generates 2,240 MWh per worker. Hydro is only 15 times as productive per worker as wind power.

Coal and natural gas are even more productive per worker than hydro, generating 29% more energy per worker and 26% more energy per worker respectively.

Of course, there is more to energy choice than jobs. The fuel for hydro, wind, and solar is essentially free. That is not true with coal and natural gas. There are also other environmental impacts to be considered, ranging from air pollution to habitat and wildlife impacts.

Those are all fine considerations. Some on the environmental left, however, try to pretend that requiring more workers to create small amounts of energy is a good thing, when it demonstrates how inefficient renewables actually are. As I’ve noted in the past, we could create more jobs in agriculture by banning tractors and replacing them with pickers. Nobody pretends that would make the world more prosperous. Apply that same logic to electricity, however, and some greens get confused.