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Clean energy sector is growing Iowa's economy

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As the wind industry continues to harness Iowa’s immense wind resources — which met an unprecedented 31 percent of the state’s total electricity needs last year — we are also creating thousands of good-paying jobs. A new report from the Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs found that 28,451 Iowans work in the state’s clean energy sector, with more than 6,400 jobs in the wind industry alone.

As Vice President of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, I have the privilege and honor of working with the many local wind developers, manufacturers and maintenance workers that are contributing to this success. Whether it’s an engineer working to design the next project or a highly skilled worker assembling a wind turbine, these Iowans are helping to lead the clean energy revolution right here from our home state.

Iowa is now leading the Midwest region in wind industry jobs, and in-state clean energy sector jobs are projected to grow at three percent in the next 12 months.

This success has created one particular challenge for many of our member companies — an ever-increasing need for workers with advanced training. The report found that three-quarters of surveyed employers have experienced hiring difficulty during the past 12 months, and about four in 10 said hiring has been “very difficult.” Employers said top hiring challenges include lack of experience, training and technical skills, as well as competition for a small applicant pool.

The good news is that Iowa’s colleges and universities are helping meet the demand by creating wind energy training programs all over the state. Numerous community colleges offer wind engineering and technician programs. Tech training is available at Des Moines Area Community College, Kirkwood Community College, Indian Hills Community College and Iowa Lakes Community College. Our wind engineering programs are housed at University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Iowa State University even has a Phd program in Wind Energy. Iowa is becoming a leader in creating more efficient wind turbines, which is helping lower costs. Not only is the Iowa wind industry creating good-paying jobs, we are also developing homegrown talent to fill them.

The report highlights how public policies play an important role in Iowa’s renewable energy development. The first state to implement a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), Iowa is the only state other than Texas where the RPS requires specific amounts of renewable energy generation from investor-owned utilities. That policy has ensured that our utilities are making local investments in low-cost wind power.

The report also found that 62 percent of survey respondents agree that the federal renewable energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) are critical tools for success. The federal PTC for wind energy was recently extended for five years, but the state-level credit is set to expire this year. Expanding it for five years to complement the federal PTC would create an economic boom that would lead to a positive ripple effect throughout rural Iowa with new landowner payments, job creation and an expanded tax base.

Currently, Iowa landowners receive more than $17 million annually in lease payments and total assessed value of property for wind turbines is estimated to be more than $2.6 billion. This revenue is crucial to our rural communities as they work to upgrade infrastructure like roads and bridges, as well as fund schools and other critical services.

The Clean Jobs Midwest report reinforces what we already know in Iowa — our state is a renewable energy leader, and the future looks exciting.

• John Boorman is vice president of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Comments: contact@iowawindenergy.org

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