Illinois’ 23 largest wind farms have generated 19,047 construction and maintenance jobs and will add $5.8 billion to local economies over the lifetime of the projects, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University.
“It’s important that decision-makers are educated about the economic development impact wind energy has on state and local communities so that informed decisions regarding future adoption of wind energy projects can be made,” said David Loomis, director of Illinois State’s Center for Renewable Energy. He presented his findings at a press conference Tuesday at the sixth annual Advancing Wind Energy in Illinois conference in Normal.
The report adds that wind farms support about 814 permanent jobs in rural areas with an annual payroll of nearly $48 million. The farms generate $28.5 million in annual property taxes and $13 million a year in extra income for landowners who lease their land to developers.
Planned wind farm projects statewide would mean an additional 12,700 jobs and millions more to local economies through payments to landowners and property tax revenue. But those projects are on hold because of uncertainty about the extension of a federal tax break for wind energy developers. The Production Tax Credit was created in 1992 and helps offset the cost of producing electricity during a wind farm’s first 10 years. It’s set to expire at the end of this year.
McLean County leads the state with permitted projects, with plans for turbines capable of producing 700 megawatts of generating capacity, or enough electricity to power about 192,000 homes each year based on average household use. Livingston County follows with 501.5 MW, Henry at 411.6 MW and Ford with 145 MW.
“In order to keep new jobs coming from wind energy, we need to see important state and federal policies in place,” Loomis said. “We’re on the cusp of seeing real price declines, which is why the subsidy is needed. In three to five years wind energy will be cost-competitive with other forms of electrical generation without the subsidy.”
Illinois continues to be a leader in wind energy development, leading the nation in 2011 with 404 turbines installed. The state ranks fourth in the country for wind-powered generating capacity.