Comment: Wind energy can power Iowa’s economic future

Source: By Tom Kiernan, AWEA, Des Moines Register • Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015

The winds of change are blowing in Iowa. Within two decades, wind energy here could power the equivalent of more than 6.3 million homes.

That’s from a new report released by the Department of Energy. According to this report, the American wind industry can rapidly expand over the next two decades, comprising one-fifth of the domestic electricity market by 2030.

Unfortunately, federal policymakers are putting this future in jeopardy. Congress has failed to renew the federal Production Tax Credit, which provides a key incentive for wind energy production. Lawmakers must correct course immediately — by restoring the credit to keep the American wind energy industry humming.

Wind now generates enough energy to power over 18 million homes nationwide. Many of the wind turbines used to generate this power are made in the United States.

Nationally, the sector supports some 73,000 jobs, including more than 6,000 in Iowa, the country’s second-largest wind-energy producer. And as wind has created more jobs, it’s also become more affordable. The price of wind energy has fallen by over half since 2010.

Growth of this kind can re-energize entire communities. The wind energy tax revenues for state and municipal governments can total millions of dollars per year. Wind industry growth also brings in huge private investments. Iowa is projected to receive $29.8 billion in wind project investment by 2030.

Family farmers and ranchers benefit immensely from wind energy as well. More than 98 percent of American wind farms operate on private lands. In Iowa alone, annual lease payments to private landowners could reach $55.5 million by 2030.

And, of course, wind has massive environmental and health advantages. The DOE report projects that improved air quality from substituting wind energy for fossil fuels could prevent 22,000 premature deaths by mid-century.

Iowa is set to continue reaping massive economic rewards from the wind energy renaissance. But future gains depend on smart policymaking today. Congress must renew the renewable energy Production Tax Credit — and ensure the future of this vital industry.

TOM KIERNAN is chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association.