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Center for Rural Affairs

Renewable Energy and Economic Potential

August 26, 2009
Dysart Reporter

Renewable Energy and Economic Potential

Wind Rich Great Plains Could Provide Energy for Nation

Today the Center for Rural Affairs released an analysis on the economic potential of wind energy development entitled, Renewable Energy and Economic Potential in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. The report examines economic impact, job creation and wind resources in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

"There is no legislation in Congress with greater potential to create jobs and directly impact rural economic development and revitalization in the Midwest and Great Plains," said John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs.

Expanding production of renewable electricity to 20% of the nation's electrical generation has the potential to create a large number of new jobs in the rural Midwest and Great Plains, according to unpublished analyses from the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The analysis projects that Kansas would gain nearly 3,100 long-term jobs in operations and maintenance of wind farms, Nebraska over 3,500 jobs, South Dakota over 3,900 jobs and Iowa over 9,000 jobs. An even higher number of medium-term jobs, averaging one year in duration, would be created - jobs related to manufacturing, site preparation and turbine construction.

Nationally, the analysis projects that reaching 20% of electrical generation from wind would result in 1.75 million full-time jobs during wind turbine construction and 1.6 million new, permanent operational (post-construction) jobs created.

The state-by-state projections were prepared in conjunction with the Laboratory's report 20% Wind by 2030, but never formally published. Those projections form the basis for the state facts sheets included in the Center for Rural Affairs' report. The projections are available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory or the Center for Rural Affairs.

According to Crabtree, whether or not the potential for wind energy to revitalize the rural areas of these four states is realized depends in large measure on the fate of federal renewable energy legislation, especially in the United States Senate. There, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act has languished after passage out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee after efforts to dilute the bill in committee met with mixed results.

"There is likely to be an effort to raise the standard when the American Clean Energy Leadership Act comes before the full Senate, and some will describe it as an environmental measure. But to rural people in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, it is unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime federal legislation to create genuine economic opportunity and a better future in their communities," said Crabtree.

The Act would facilitate development of a national interstate electric transmission grid to move electricity from areas that have the resources for renewable production to areas with high demand. It would be tailor-made for moving wind from the wind rich Great Plains to the nation's population centers. The costs of developing the grid would be shared among all beneficiaries, including both electricity producers and consumers.

The bill also includes a critically important Renewable Electricity Standard. It would ostensibly require that 12 percent of the nation's electric generation come from renewable sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, new hydroelectric, biomass and landfill generation, by the year 2021.

A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, Comparative Analysis of Three Proposed Federal Renewable Electricity Standards, concludes, however, that the legislation would effectively require renewable production of less than 10 percent of nation's electricity by the year 2021. That is less renewable electricity production than the study projects in its baseline, which assumes that Congress takes no action to promote renewable production of electricity.

"The renewable electricity standard is important, but it is crucial that the standard that came out of the Senate Energy Committee be strengthened on the floor of the Senate in order for the rural Midwest and Great Plains to realize the fullest economic potential of wind energy development," Crabtree added.

A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at:



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