Report: Proposed Wind Development Could Create Thousands Of Jobs In Illinois

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As many as 20,000 jobs would be created with the development of the 3,200 MW of utility-scale wind generation currently permitted in Illinois, according to a report released by three wind energy organizations.

The report, titled ‘Investing in Illinois,’ was released by the Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA), the American Wind Energy Association and Wind on the Wires at a time when state lawmakers are considering legislation to overhaul the state's electric market.

‘With the right policies in Illinois, we can ensure that a significant number of the 3,200 MW of permitted wind projects will go to construction within the next few years,’ says Kevin Borgia, executive director of IWEA. ‘Wind energy can create thousands of new jobs, but to tap wind's tremendous economic potential, Illinois needs policies that reflect current market realities and foster financing of new projects.’

Using the U.S. Department of Energy's Job and Economic Development Impact model, the report finds that if all 3,200 MW of the current permitted wind projects were developed in Illinois, the following are likely to occur:

– Creation of over 19,000 new jobs in construction, manufacturing and maintenance in the near term;

– Generation of more than $930 million in construction wages and $34 million in annual operations and maintenance wages;

– Production of over $32 million in annual local taxes, approximately 70% of which would go directly to local school districts; and

– Generation over $9 million in annual lease payments to Illinois farmers and landowners.

Illinois currently has over 2,000 MW of installed wind energy, but according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the state's wind resource could meet over five times the state's total current electricity needs.

However, the current market for commercial wind remains largely untapped because the state's existing renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law makes financing new wind projects difficult, according to IWEA.

Legislation now before the Illinois legislature would expand and streamline the RPS program, facilitate the type of long-term power contracts with utilities that renewable energy developers need in order to get projects built, encourage project construction in Illinois, and ensure economic development benefits to the state, IWEA says.

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