Wind energy’s job creation and economic impact will continue to rise according to a new report by Navigant Consulting.
The report, which was produced for the American Wind Energy Association, analyzed wind industry employment and investment over the next few years. Navigant projects total United States wind employment will reach 248,000 jobs by 2020, which is a growth of more than 50,000.
The report also found that the industry’s economic impact will grow by more than $4 billion over the next three years. Much of this growth will be due to the extension of the Production Tax Credit, according to Navigant.
According to the consulting company’s data, Iowa will rank No. 3 in the nation for wind employment from 2017-2020, behind only Texas and Colorado. Navigant projects more than 17,000 wind jobs in Iowa by 2020.
Currently, Iowa leads the country by generating more than 36 percent of its electricity from wind energy, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Iowa’s commitment to renewable energy goes back to 1983, when it became the first state to adopt a renewable portfolio standard by enacting the Alternative Energy Production Law.
Newton has felt the direct impact of the wind industry. TPI Composites and Trinity Structural Towers both contribute to the state’s booming wind economy. Both companies also helped fill a much needed employment void in the aftermath of Maytag’s departure from the city.
Navigant’s Bruce Hamilton, who directed the report for AWEA, said wind is currently the most competitive source of renewable energy. The industry’s future is bullish in the long-term, he said.
“In the last 5-10 years, costs have come down by two-thirds,” Hamilton said. “Turbines are getting smarter.”
Rural Iowa is especially impacted by wind’s expansion. Farmers and ranchers, who own most of the land being used for wind energy, see benefits economically. Additionally, wind turbines may benefit crops by affecting air temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations, according to an Iowa State University study released in December.
“Growing wind energy revitalizes America’s rural areas and Rust Belt manufacturing centers,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “With over 100,000 jobs today, the industry is just getting started.”
In 2015, the PTC was simultaneously extended and scheduled to be phased out. By 2019, wind energy will be the only major source of energy without a dedicated federal incentive, according to AWEA.
The PTC’s aim is to keep wind energy attractive for investors who finance new wind farms by providing tax incentives. It was originally authored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and became law in 1992. Hamilton said the looming loss of the PTC will be one of the industry’s most immediate challenges in the coming years.
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