Wind power builds a better tomorrow for Iowa

Source: By Rob Gramlich, The Hill • Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wind energy has been a major driver of Iowa’s economy and an important part of its electricity mix, despite the inaccurate and misleading claims in Grant Kidwell’s Oct. 6 commentary.

Iowa leads the nation by reliably generating over 30 percent of its electricity using wind power. When Wind XI comes online, the Hawkeye State will near 40 percent.

The results of this development have benefited Iowans across the state. As Gov. Terry Branstad has explained,“Every wind turbine you see in Iowa means income for farmers, revenue for counties and jobs for Iowa families.”

What do the numbers look like for those famers, counties and families? Iowa landowners receive up to $20 million every year for hosting turbines on their property. For many family farms, this can be the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition, and seeing a way of life come to the end of the line.

“A few years ago corn was $7 a bushel,” Tim Hemphill, and Iowa corn and soybean farmer, recently told Bloomberg Government. “Now my cost to raise it is $4.20 and [the price] could fall to $2.70. It’s going to break a lot of people.” Hemphill’s turbine lease payments are helping him weather this downturn.

The construction of wind farms has attracted nearly $12 billion of investment into Iowa’s economy, and wind could create an additional $50 million in property tax revenue by 2020. These added resources fund schools, lower taxes and fix roads.

“This is our financial future,” Michael Nolte, a farmer who sits on the Franklin County Board of Supervisors in Iowa also told Bloomberg Government. “It’s helping us survive and maintain services, whereas other counties have had to make cuts.”

Jobs are also an important part of the picture. Iowa wind power supports up to 7,000 well-paying positions and 11 factories that build wind-related parts and materials. In many cases, these opportunities provide a second chance after previous industry left, like a former Maytag factory in Newton, Iowa that has since been repurposed to build wind turbine blades.

This development has also helped keep more money in Iowans’ pockets. Today, Iowa has the seventh lowest electricity rates in the country, sitting 38 percent below the national average. Through 2050, wind could help Iowans save over $3.5 billion on their electricity bills, on top of another nearly $4.7 billion saved from protection against conventional fuel price spikes.

Federal policy has been an important driver of this success. It has spurred American innovation and improved domestic manufacturing, which have helped cut the price consumers pay for wind energy by two-thirds over six years. Because of these cost declines, American wind power has tripled in size since 2008, and there’s now enough wind energy in the U.S. to power 20 million homes. The U.S. wind industry has grown to now support 88,000 jobs across all 50 states, and over 500 factories build wind-related parts and materials. Last year, Congress voted to phase down the Production Tax Credit by 2019, establishing a predictable timeline. To disrupt that would harm manufacturers, farmers, and businesses of all sizes in Iowa and around the country.

With the highest amount of installed wind power by land area in the U.S., Iowans know wind energy better than anyone, and according to a recent poll of citizens from the state’s Third District, 91 percent of respondents support wind power. Although anti-renewable energy special interests would have you believe otherwise, results like these tell you all you need to know about this American success story.

Rob Gramlich is Senior Vice President of Government & Public Affairs, American Wind Energy Association