Report: 23 Largest Wind Farms In Illinois Bring $6 Billion In Economic Benefits To The State

Mitt Romney’s campaign says the candidate supports ending the production tax credit for wind — even while supporting billions in tax credits for the Big Five oil companies. Some are now wondering if Romney’s stance on wind will hurt him in the Midwest, where the technology has has such a positive economic impact.

A new report released by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University (ISU) shows why wind is so important to America’s heartland.

The report looked at the 23 largest wind farms in Illinois, finding that they will add almost $6 billion to local economies over their lifetimes and have resulted in the creation of more than 19,000 jobs during the construction periods. The projects will also support 814 permanent jobs in the state.

The report’s authors conclude that these benefits would not be possible without consistent federal and state policy:

A number of factors have caused the rapid growth of wind power capacity in the United States in recent years including federal and state policies… In particular, federal renewable energy production tax credits (PTC) along with state renewable electricity standards (RES) have been the biggest drivers.

The economic analysis details how wind farms benefit landowners, local governments, and school districts.

Dr. Larry Dodds, Superintendent of Ridgeview School District in McLean County, IL, said while the state government had to cut the school district’s budget by almost $750,000 over three years, the wind farms have significantly contributed to the county’s $1.8 million FY2011 tax revenue.

This economic analysis shows once again why Congress needs to extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) due to expire at the end of the year.

Wind energy has been increasing in Illinois and across the country. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), 35 percent of all new U.S. power capacity in the past five years has been from wind power — bringing $20 billion in annual private investment. Yet, Congress is set to let the PTC expire and possibly kill up to 37,000 jobs.

The uncertainty around the PTC is already causing turmoil within the wind industry. Last week, General Electric — the largest U.S. producer of wind turbines — blamed a decrease in sales this past quarter on Congress’ inability to extend the PTC. And the world’s largest producer of wind turbines, Vestas, says it may lay off 1,600 American workers if the credit is not extended.

Matt Kasper is a Special Assistant for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.