Iowa wind, solar interests tout economic benefits

State is 'pretty big force' in clean energy

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DES MOINES — Iowa and the Midwest are a “pretty big force” in the development of a national clean energy economy, representatives of the Iowa wind and solar industries said at the Capitol Tuesday.

Already, nearly 28,500 Iowans work in the state’s clean energy sector, according to a report by E2 and the Clean Energy Trust, Gail Parson of E2 said at a Statehouse news conference. About 6,500 of them work in the wind industry and another 600 in solar.

“We’re kind of the young guys on the block,” Tim Dwight of the Iowa Solar Trade Association said. “We see wind as a big brother to us.”

Rob Hach of the Iowa Wind Energy Association pointed out that Iowa gets 31 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, and Gov. Terry Branstad has a goal of increasing that to 40 percent.

To do that, he said, wind energy companies need the Legislature to extend the wind energy tax credit that is due to expire this year. Dwight would like to see the tax credit cap on solar projects increased from $5 million to $7.5 million.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tom Sands, R-Wapello, can’t guarantee that will happen.

“I know there are a lot of tax credits and incentives out there, but the question is whether in a tight budget year, do any of them get traction,” he said.

Wind energy is a hedge against volatile energy prices and doesn’t add to landfills, create smog or require water, Hach said. In fact, according to an American Wind Energy Association report released Tuesday, wind energy generation saves 226 gallons of water per American per year, and wind farms pay about $10 million a year in leases to Iowa farmland owners.

Lowering energy costs lowers operating costs for Iowa business and contributes to their profitability, added Emily Rice of the Des Moines-based The Energy Group. She called for a “more robust” energy efficiency programs, especially among rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, such as Muscatine and Cedar Falls.

More financing options are needed to help businesses implement energy efficiency plans and transition to clean energy options, Rice said.

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