Wind energy generates tens of millions of dollars in property tax revenue and landowner payments annually and spurs economic activity, according to an updated economic study released last week by Illinois State University’s (ISU) Center for Renewable Energy.
The "Economic Impact: Wind Energy in Illinois" study examined the impact of the state’s 23 largest wind farm projects with generating capacity of more than 50 megawatts.
Those wind farms are expected to generate $5.98 billion in economic benefits over the 25-year life of the turbines, reported David Loomis, an ISU professor and the center’s director.
However, new wind farm projects are in limbo because the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC) is set to expire in December, noted Loomis and several other speakers during last week’s sixth annual state Wind Power Conference.
“It’s important for decision makers to be educated about the economic impacts” of wind energy projects, Loomis said.
The PTC, which has been in place since 2005, provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of generated electricity for wind developers.
Given the location of the wind farms, it is rural economies that gained many benefits, according to the study. The 23 projects generated:
- $28.5 million in annual property tax revenue, with school districts being the largest recipients;
- $13.03 million in annual payments to landowners; and
- 211 local jobs and $16.52 million annually to local economies after projects began operating.
During construction, the 23 projects created 2,412 new jobs and pumped $217 million into the local economies.
McLean County leads the state with 546 megawatts or 16 percent of the state’s wind farm capacity. LaSalle County ranks second and Lee County third.
Nationwide, Illinois ranks fourth with 3,334 megawatts of installed wind generation.
The wind energy industry also has spread to the state’s manufacturing sector. A total of 28 facilities manufacture wind turbine components in Illinois. Another 13 global or U.S. headquarters of major wind power companies are located in the Chicago area, according to the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
“There’s a hub in Illinois to attract other companies here,” Loomis said.
Some existing manufacturing companies retrofitted to tap into the wind turbine market. Ingersoll Machine Tools, based in Rockford, used a $5 million state grant to upgrade and retrofit equipment to manufacture turbine rotor hubs. The switch created 81 new jobs and retained another 18, said Alyson Grady with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
A copy of the 2012 economic report is available as a PDF at www.RenewableEnergy.ilstu.edu
under new reports.