Big Push for Wind as Rural Iowa Economic Development
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Green energy advocates are pushing wind power as an economic development tool in rural America.
Iowa is among the nation's leaders in wind energy and continues to expand its capacity.
Merlin Bartz, former Worth County Supervisor and a wind energy advocate, works with the Clean Grid Alliance to educate people about renewable power. He advocates for wind power as a way for Iowa's small towns and counties to boost local revenue, diversify the economy and broaden the tax base.
He pointed out in Worth County, for instance, nearly 300 wind turbines generate not just power, but more than $172 million for the local economy.
"And particularly in a county like Worth, with only 7,500 people and one of the smallest geographic counties in the state, that's enormous," Bartz emphasized. "That revenue generated enough money to be approximately 17% to 20% of the county's budget."
Critics of wind turbines have argued they are limited to certain geographical areas and weather conditions, could threaten wildlife, and cause shadow flicker. They also say dotting Iowa's open spaces with wind turbines can be an eyesore and lead to visual and noise pollution, lowering local property values.
Bartz contended the opposite is true. He noted farmers and other landowners benefit from wind-turbine income on their land, which increases its value. On a larger scale, rural communities are well positioned to profit from green energy infrastructure, which he explained cannot happen in urban areas.
"They're not going to build a turbine farm in downtown Des Moines, or right next to the city of Des Moines," Bartz stressed. "It fits much better in rural areas where you have the open space. It's an economic development tool that's in the tool box for rural counties, so it kind of levels the playing field a little bit."
The Clean Grid Alliance pointed out the cost of installing wind power infrastructure has fallen 72% since 2009, and investments in infrastructure have increased by $25 billion. Iowa recently announced more than half of the electricity generated in the state comes from wind.
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