Wind Energy, A Breath of Fresh Air
Wind energy is a free resource, and it’s abundant in places around the country, including Iowa. Wind is also a homegrown resource. The electricity it generates is produced on local farms, for local customers, and often adds investment value to the community.
I just visited a wind farm dedication by a company that is Iowa-based and predominately Iowa-owned. The wind farm will sell electricity to Iowa-based co-ops. You can’t get much more local than that.
The turmoil in the Middle East underscores the need to develop energy sources in our own backyard. Wind energy is not dependent on far-away countries with leaders who are hostile to the United States, even as they gladly take our energy dollars.
With all of those positive attributes, wind energy presents tremendous opportunities to help meet our nation’s energy needs.
It’s always great news to hear a new wind farm is getting under way. I’ve been a long-time supporter of wind energy, beginning with authorship of the first wind production tax credit in 1992. I had no idea at that time the enormous success that the tax credit would become.
In Iowa, the wind energy industry employs nearly 5,000 full-time workers, with a number of major wind manufacturing facilities. Iowa generates 20 percent of its electricity needs from wind, and wind energy powers the equivalent of a million homes. Almost 3,000 utility-scale turbines in Iowa generate lease payments to landowners worth $12.5 million every year. Across the country, wind energy production supports 75,000 jobs and drives as much as $20 billion in private investment.
Today, 60 percent of a wind turbine’s value is produced in the United States, compared with just 25 percent in 2005. There are now 400 facilities building wind components in 43 states. Thirty-five percent of all new electricity generation in the United States was wind during the last five years.
Some individuals argue that the industry is already established and doesn’t need federal support. Some claim the federal government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. I understand the philosophical point of view that maybe the federal government shouldn’t provide a production tax credit for any product, in any industry. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re hearing in the current attacks on wind energy.
Oil and gas and nuclear power all receive longstanding federal support. If we’re going to have a discussion of which industries merit federal support and which don’t, the discussion needs to be intellectually honest. If we’re having that discussion, everything needs to be on the table, not just wind. These are the points I share with anyone in Washington, D.C., and beyond whenever wind energy becomes a target.
Those of us who appreciate what wind energy contributes to the economy, the environment, and energy security have to speak up. Wind energy will stand up next to any other form of energy when given a fair shake.
Monday, October 15, 2012