Illinois Wind Industry Reportedly Has $6 Billion Potential

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Midwest Energy News. Author credit goes to Kari Lydersen.

Wind energy will pump almost $6 billion into Illinois’s economy over the course of several decades, much of it concentrated in cash-strapped rural areas, according to a report released recently by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, during the annual Advancing Wind Power in Illinois conference.

Wind advocates are pointing to the report in asking Congress to extend or make permanent the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy beyond its scheduled expiration at the end of 2012.

illinois wind power

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Illinois is probably not the first state that comes to mind when many people think of roaring winds – Chicago’s “Windy City” moniker refers to loudmouth politicians, not climate. But the report shows Illinois is a poster child for how a state with even moderate wind resources can gain from aggressively tapping the renewable resource and their industrial and transmission infrastructure; and crafting state policies to facilitate wind development.

Illinois’ wind power capacity has grown more than 66-fold in less than a decade, according to theAmerican Wind Energy Association (AWEA), from 50 megawatts in 2003 to 3,360 megawatts today. As of April 2012 Illinois ranked fourth nationally in installed wind capacity, though it ranks only 14thin wind resources, according to AWEA. In 2011, Illinois installed the second most new wind power of any state, about 800 megawatts.

According to AWEA, Illinois’ wind power avoids the emission of 4.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared to similar electric generation by fossil fuel plants.

The report says that the state’s 23 projects larger than 50 megawatts – which account for 99 percent of total wind capacity – over the course of their 20- to 30-year lifetimes will mean:

  • 20,000 full-time-equivalent construction jobs with a $1 billion payroll
  • 814 permanent jobs worth $48 million, mostly in rural areas
  • $28.5 million in annual property taxes that bolster schools, fire departments, libraries and other public services
  • $13 million in payments to landowners for turbines on their property

Diverse impacts

The report describes the different ways landowners can benefit from wind turbines:

Landowners can be compensated in a variety of ways: option payments, construction disturbance or installation payments, land leases/easements, and/or royalties. While royalty payments represent a percentage of gross income received by the wind farm owner from the sale of power, land easements represent a specific amount paid to the landowner each year and are typically adjusted for inflation.

The report notes that the property tax impacts of wind development can benefit schools even more than other new industries would, since many new industries bring an influx of workers, and hence new students, to a school district, increasing the district’s costs even while pumping in new tax revenue. Post-construction, wind farms only require a handful of workers, generating property tax revenue with little or no increase in the school’s costs.

The study uses the Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) Wind Energy Model, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to quantify the impact of wind farms nationwide using state-specific multipliers. It measures direct job creation in construction, engineering, maintenance, trucking and the like; along with indirect job creation driven by increased demand for gravel, steel, copper, heavy equipment and other supply chain materials and components – many of them sourced or fabricated locally or regionally.

For example, Finkl and Sons steel mill in Chicago manufactures turbine components, Trinity Structural Towers in Clinton makes towers, and Siemens Energy and Automation in Elgin makes turbine gear drivers.

The study also looks at induced impacts – the increases in household spending when new income comes into a community. Specific training is crucial to be sure local residents can take advantage of the permanent jobs created by wind turbines. The report notes a variety of wind-related programs at Illinois colleges, including an interdisciplinary wind undergraduate major instituted at Illinois State University in 2008, with a technology track and an economics/public policy track.

Midwest Energy News, launched in 2010, is a nonprofit news site dedicated to keeping stakeholders, policymakers, and citizens informed of the important changes taking place as the Midwest shifts from fossil fuels to a clean energy system.