As the first in the nation caucus state, Iowa has a great responsibility in our national elections. We all understand that and take the role very seriously, but I think there is one area where we could use our platform even more — to explain to the rest of the country how renewable energy is a practical and profitable source of energy. More specifically, Iowa has a burgeoning wind industry that America would do well to emulate.
Home to 114 wind farms and 10 wind-related manufacturing facilities, 34 percent of Iowa’s energy comes from wind. Iowa ranks second in the nation for wind power capacity with nearly 9,000 megawatts installed, producing enough electricity to power 2.08 million homes. Across the heartland — in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, and Kansas — wind energy just makes sense. Sometimes that gets forgotten in the national conversation around climate change, the environment, and clean energy goals.
Wind energy has been a stimulant to Iowa’s economy. The development of wind power currently supports nearly 10,000 jobs across the state. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that wind turbine technician is the second fastest growing job in the country. Furthermore, wind techs with just a two-year degree make an average salary of $64,320 in Iowa, allowing our young people to thrive and contribute in rural communities.
Wind energy is also superior to traditional energy sources in terms of environmental impact. In addition to the obvious smaller carbon footprint, wind turbines also have small physical footprints — the typical wind farm leaves 98 percent of land untouched. Generating wind power creates no emissions and uses virtually no water. In 2018 the wind industry saved Iowa 4.8 billion gallons of water, and avoided 8.8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of taking 1.9 million cars off the road.
Iowans know shifting toward greater production of renewable energy isn’t some pipe dream by coastal elites. In fact, we produce more wind energy than California and New York. It’s time we remind the national candidates campaigning in Iowa that we are leaders in wind energy, and that the rest of the country has something to learn from us when it comes to our renewable energy future.
Josh Opperman of Ames has a law degree from Drake University and teaches classes at Simpson College and Grandview University. His column was submitted by Power Up Iowa.