For a long time, most Americans knew two things about Iowa: our caucuses kick off the presidential nomination process, and we grow much of the food that feeds the nation.
But now, because of the extraordinary leadership of elected officials like Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley, we’re known for something new — wind energy.
When the rest of the country wants to see what a future powered by wind looks like, they come here. Bloomberg spoke with our farmers for an article entitled “Wind is the new corn.” NPR went to Iowa Lakes Community College to learn what it takes to get a job in America’s fastest growing profession — wind turbine technician.
That’s because Iowa offers a prime example of what happens when you decide to tap into a God-given resource. We lead the nation by generating over 35 percent of our electricity using wind power, and that has meant jobs for our citizens, income for towns across the state and the largest private investments in Iowa’s history.
Today over 8,000 Iowans work in wind power, many at the 11 in-state factories that build wind-related parts. For example, Trinity Structural Towers and TPI Composites have brought new manufacturing jobs to the town of Newton, replacing ones lost when Maytag and other companies closed factories and moved jobs out of the country.
And wind really can be “the new corn” for Iowa farmers — they receive over $20 million a year in lease payments for hosting turbines. That offers income they can count on rain or shine.
Wind also brings new opportunities to our state. We now have a booming tech sector, with companies like Facebook choosing Iowa to house new data centers, all because they can power them using wind energy.
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Even better, these numbers are going to keep going up. By 2020, our state will have over 17,000 wind-related jobs according to new analysis from Navigant Consulting. New wind farm construction will create $9 billion of economic activity in Iowa over the next four years. That should come as no surprise, with companies like MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy each investing over $1 billion in Iowa wind projects.
It took leadership and vision from elected officials like Gov. Branstad to create this prosperous environment. Three decades ago, during his go-round leading Iowa, Gov. Branstad created America’s first renewable energy standard. That policy has played a big role in Iowa’s wind boom, and the rest of the country has taken notice. Today, 28 other states have followed the Governor’s lead and created their own standards.
We thank Gov. Branstad for his years of dedicated service, and for the role he played in helping Iowa build upon and enhance the agricultural foundation of our economy. By growing wind, Gov. Branstad helped our farmers be in a position to meet 21st century challenges, and the benefits have flowed to communities across Iowa. We wish Gov. Branstad luck and know he will continue his successful public service as our next ambassador to China.
• John Boorman is vice president at the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Comments: email@example.com