We’ve been hearing a lot about how state and city policy will be essential for renewable energy growth in the US and this news from Illinois serves as further evidence of that assertion. A new report issued by a trio of wind energy associations suggests that if the state of Illinois were to develop all 3,200 megawatts of currently permitted wind projects, it could potentially generate as many as 20,000 jobs and close to $1 billion in wages. To do so, however, the state will need new policies that enable wind projects to be financed more easily.
The report, called “Investing in Illinois”, was recently released by the Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Wind on the Wires (WOW). It points out that development of all of the state’s permitted wind projects could generate more than $930 million in construction wages and $34 million in annual operations and maintenance wages. Furthermore, the new wind project development could produce over $32 million annually in new local tax revenue (over 2/3 of which would end up going directly to local school districts) and generate over $9 million in annual lease payments to Illinois farmers and landowners.
According to an IWEA statement, the state currently has about 2000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity, but the state is in a position to generate much more. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Illinois could potentially generate 5 times more wind energy than the state’s annual electricity needs. With such compelling data, it seems clear that pursuing these wind energy projects would be a prudent move. However, according to the report, the state’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law makes financing new wind projects difficult.
The IWEA points out that the timing of its report is crucial as legislation that would expand and streamline the RPS program is currently sitting in front of the Illinois legislature. If the legislation passes, the IWEA says that it would “facilitate the type of long-term power contracts with utilities that renewable energy developers need in order to get projects built, encourage project construction in Illinois, and ensure economic development benefits for the state.”