Illinois Should Restore Wind Energy Funding

The State of Illinois should restore investment in wind power and other clean energy infrastructure to at least 2015 levels, according to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute in a new Economic Commentary [PDF].

Wind power generates positive impacts for the people of Illinois. Previous investments already prevent the emission of 7.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from Illinois and save 4.5 billion gallons of water every year. In addition, wind power has saved Illinois residents millions of dollars.

Wind power is one source of electricity that does not emit any carbon dioxide or other gas that contributes to climate change. Nationally, expanding wind energy production has been associated with lower levels of pollution. Reduced pollution from wind turbines has helped to prevent asthma attacks, heart attacks, and other health problems – saving the U.S. economy over $100 billion in total health care costs.

The State of Illinois has been successful in attracting investment for large wind energy projects. The state currently ranks fifth in the nation for installed wind capacity with 2,348 wind turbines and 46 wind projects on-line. Wind energy also provides 5.5 percent of all electricity production in Illinois.

Construction of wind energy projects creates or saves good, blue-collar construction and operations jobs that can last between 6 months and two years, depending on size. These direct jobs require highly-skilled workers in construction, management, and engineering. These projects also boost local economic development and provide indirect employment opportunities, particularly in rural communities.

The 23 largest wind power projects in Illinois created and saved over 19,000 full-time equivalent jobs in all sectors of the state’s economy during their construction phases, with a total payroll of more than $1.1 billion. These largest projects also employ over 800 permanent jobs in rural Illinois and generate another $13 million every year for Illinois landowners leasing their property to wind farm developers. Over the life of the 23 largest projects, the expected net effect is a $6 billion increase in Illinois’ economic output.

Wind power also has a positive impact on tax revenues in Illinois. The 23 largest wind power projects generate $28.5 million in annual property tax revenues. The vast majority of local government revenue in Illinois goes towards funding education, fire departments, police departments, and other infrastructure projects that also benefit the local economy.

Restoring state funding for the Illinois Power Agency Renewable Energy Resources Fund to 2015 levels – $50 million over the year – would directly create at least 200 full-time equivalent jobs in Illinois and help to reduce energy prices throughout the state. This change would be a positive environmental, health, and economic step for the people of Illinois and would particularly revitalize rural communities. Illinois should restore wind energy funding.

Cover photo: “Wind Turbine” is from Flickr user shock264 (2010).

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