Monday, 23 July 2012

Report: Wind farms add billions of dollars to local economies
17 Jul 2012

Illinois' 23 largest wind farms--several of which are in Central Illinois--will add $5.8 billion to local economies over the life of the projects, according to an Illinois State University study released Tuesday.

The construction of wind farms--including Twin Groves and White Oak wind farms in McLean County, Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm in Livingston County, Pioneer Trail in Iroquois and Ford counties and Rail Splitter Wind Farm in Tazewell and Logan counties--generated 19,047 construction jobs and 814 local, long-term jobs, said David Loomis, director of ISU's Center for Renewable Energy and co-author of the study.

During the construction phase of the various wind farms, workers made more than $1.1 billion. The wind farms generate $28.5 million in annual property taxes, and landowners make about $13 million a year by allowing turbines to be placed on their properties, the study reports. "This is important to know so informed decisions can be made regarding the future of wind projects", Loomis said at a news conference during the sixth annual Advancing Wind Energy in Illinois conference at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal.

Loomis said wind farm production is at a standstill now because a production tax credit that helped offset project costs expires at the end of the year. Jack Darin, president and director of the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter, said extending that tax credit is "critical for the health of our environment". "Today's heat is the kind scientists say will be the new normal if something is not changed", Darin said, referring to current "old and dirty" practices of energy production.

Larry Flowers, deputy director of the American Wind Energy Association, said coal and gas producers receive subsidies so wind power should as well to level the playing field. Flowers said wind power projects are important for job creation in the United States. Mike Matejka, legislative affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, agreed. "Wind jobs are very, very important as we bridge the recession", Matejka said.

Wind farms and high speed rail work have been two keys to keeping people employed, he said, adding that those workers in turn are able to pay their mortgage, buy a vehicle and groceries. McLean County leads the state with wind farm projects. The planned turbines will produce enough electricity to power about 192,000 homes a year.