Iowa 5th-largest clean energy jobs creator in fourth quarter

Source: By CHRISTOPHER DOERING, Gannett Washington Bureau, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014

Report credits the state’s ethanol and wind projects

Iowa, which generates a quarter of its electricity by wind, made plans last year to add up to 1,400 clean energy and transportation jobs in the state, according to the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs.

In a report released Wednesday, the group said during the fourth quarter alone, Iowa ranked the fifth-largest for job creation, trailing only Texas, Arizona, New York and California.

Overall, 260 projects were announced in 2013 in the United States that could create more than 78,600 clean energy and transportation jobs, Environmental Entrepreneurs said. Solar power generation was the year’s top sector with more than 21,600 jobs announced. Other strong sectors included building efficiency and public transportation.

The Iowa jobs include wind projects at MidAmerican Energy and cellulosic ethanol plants by Poet, DuPont and Fiberight, according to the group.

“Our report makes it clear. When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country. Whether it’s a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy,” said Judith Albert, Environmental Entrepreneurs’ executive director.

The environmental advocacy organization said job announcements in 2013 were about 30 percent lower than in 2012.

The decline was due to the firm’s methodology, the low cost of natural gas, as well as attempts by renewable energy opponents to block or roll back favorable policies at the federal level and in numerous states.

Job growth could resume in 2014, Environmental Entrepreneurs said, if Congress renews a two-decade-old tax credit that has expired. The credit provided a 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour benefit for electricity generated from utility-scale turbines during the first 10 years of a facility’s operation. Renewable energy projects that started construction before Dec. 31, 2013, were eligible for the tax credit.

The American Wind Industry Association said more than 12,000 megawatts of wind power generation, a record, were under construction at the end of 2013, including 1,050 megawatts in Iowa.

In the Hawkeye State, 16 projects were under construction during January.

Most are small projects, with the exception of four by Mid­American Energy Co., which announced last May it would boost wind generation, consisting of up to 656 new turbines, by the end of 2015.