Report finds Iowa’s wind jobs come out on top

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A new report on advanced energy employment in Iowa shows that the wind industry employs an impressive 3,600-plus workers in the Hawkeye State.

The report by the Advanced Energy Economic Institute found that wind energy “dominates” among jobs supported by advanced electricity generation industries in Iowa,, with 68 percent of workers in that segment working in wind. The report is consistent with research by the American Wind Energy Association.

The state numbers are impressive, but what may be most telling in the report is its meaning beyond Iowa’s borders. The report, for instance, notes the correlation between jobs and a commitment to renewable energy. Iowa has a long history of providing a conducive policy environment for tapping its renewable resources. In the 1980s, Iowa became the first state to institute a renewable portfolio standard.

“It’s easy to see why Iowa has a sizable workforce,” the report notes. “The state is a national wind energy powerhouse, as these [2013 American Wind Energy Association] statistics demonstrate: first in the nation in the percentage of electricity generated by wind (27 percent), third in megawatts installed, and third in the number of utility scale wind turbines.”

The report also notes how the growth of wind power has contributed to Iowa economic development beyond the industry itself, citing as examples the decisions by both Google and Facebook to locate data centers in the state—in part because of the availability of clean, affordable wind energy.

Another takeaway that’s applicable elsewhere: Those states most familiar with wind energy seem to like it the most. From the Iowa report: “Iowans overwhelmingly support the growth of the wind energy segment. Fully 85 percent of people in the state view wind energy more favorably than any other energy source, providing political support for pro-wind policies.”

. However, the report also found that wind energy employment in the state has declined compared to 2013. The report states that “[t]his decline occurred during a sharp downturn in the U.S. wind industry associated with the expiration, followed by renewal, of the federal production tax credit (PTC), which resulted in the 90 percent drop in wind industry revenue in 2013.”

To avert more of the all-to-familiar boom-bust cycle, Congress must implement long-term policies to promote wind —  states like Iowa depend on it.

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