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Pandemic Hits Iowa's Wind Energy Industry Hard

According to one trade group, Iowa has more than 9,000 wind-energy jobs. (Adobe Stock)
According to one trade group, Iowa has more than 9,000 wind-energy jobs. (Adobe Stock)
May 6, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Renewable energy is among the many industries seeing major disruptions during the pandemic. Observers say that's troubling news for states such as Iowa as a national leader in producing wind energy.

Last year, Iowa joined Kansas as the first states to have wind power become a top source of electricity, However, the COVID-19 crisis is showing its effect. John Hensley, vice president for research and analytics at the American Wind Energy Association, said it started with the global supply chain and later caused slowdowns in other key areas.

"With the virus spreading," he said, "obviously, health and safety have become a big concern for many companies, which have slowed everything down, from transportational logistics to the actual construction of the projects themselves."

According to a research firm, the United States lost more than 100,000 renewable-energy jobs in March, with more than 1,000 in Iowa. One of the state's two U.S. senators, Republican Charles Grassley, is working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to protect stalled projects from losing their federal tax-credit status. The lawmakers are urging the Treasury Department to extend provisions that would allow them to still qualify.

Hensley said it's frustrating to see any progress for clean energy hit a roadblock. He said 2020 was supposed to be a banner year for wind energy, but a lot has changed in recent weeks.

"We've seen anywhere from two- up to six- to eight-week delays in delivery of components," he said, "which can lead to multiple weeks or months of delays to those projects -- and, ultimately, even some folks pulling out of projects."

Late last month, a wind-turbine manufacturing plant in Iowa was forced to close temporarily after at least two dozen workers tested positive for COVID-19.

The job-loss data is online at e2.org, and Grassley's letter is at grassley.senate.gov.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA