Large parts of rural America have been experiencing population decline for over half a century. In fact, 35 percent of rural counties have a combined 6.2 million fewer residents than they did in 1950. There are many reasons for this demographic change, including a lack of economic opportunity for young people, who are often forced to move away in order to make a living.
Fortunately, some of these trends have begun to reverse in recent years, and renewable energy is playing a role. As wind and solar grow exponentially, with projects usually located in rural areas, they’re creating new jobs and adding substantial tax revenue to local coffers. Now, a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an organization dedicated to global energy transformation, shows just how much promise lies in renewables from the perspective of rural economic development.
RMI’s Seeds of Opportunity report finds by 2030 wind and solar will generate $60 billion in annual revenue. That’s comparable to rural staples like corn ($58 billion), soy ($44 billion), and beef ($70 billion). By 2030 RMI finds other benefits as well including:
- $2.7 billion in annual tax revenue;
- $2.2 billion in annual lease payments to landowners hosting wind turbines and solar panels on their property;
- $2.3 billion in annual construction job wages; and
- $3.7 billion in annual operations and maintenance job wages.
Overall, RMI’s report finds 600 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar projects will be built over the next 10 years, creating $220 billion in lifetime value across rural America.
The Seeds of Opportunity report also includes case studies from communities at the heart of the renewable revolution in Texas, Colorado and Iowa, and the stories from these places will sounds familiar to anyone who has followed wind and solar’s paths in recent years:
You can download the full report here.