30 Years Of Forward-Thinking Leaders Has Spurred Iowa’s Clean Tech Growth

People who haven’t been following the renewable energy industry will be forgiven for their reaction when they’re told that Iowa is among the most advanced, opportunistic state in the cleantech economy.  “Iowa?  Isn’t that corn country?”

Well, yes.  But it’s also wind country.  And like few other states, Iowans have turned their constant breeze into a powerful economic force.

This is the last in a trio of posts highlighting the findings from EDF’s reports on the cleantech economies of Ohio, Colorado and Iowa (here is my last post on Ohio).  Today, I’ll focus on Iowa.

Despite its size, Iowa produces the second most wind power in the U.S. (Texas is #1 and California is #3) and is one of only two states that receives over 20% of its electricity from wind power.  More impressive has been the state’s ability to capture the economic — not just the environmental — benefit of that ranking.  According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa has attracted more major wind industry manufacturers than any other state.  It’s a great example of supply meeting demand.

Politically, wind power has been supported by both parties for three decades.  It was the first state to pass a Renewable Portfolio Standard, under republican Governor Terry Branstad in 1983.  In 2005, democratic Governor Tom Vilsack signed a tax credit for renewable energy production.  And in 2007 democratic Governor Chet Culver created the Iowa Power Fund to invest in local renewable energy research and development projects.  This level of across-the-aisle cooperation is unique among states and has given Iowa a considerable advantage in competing against larger and richer states.

This long commitment has also enabled Iowa to “grow out” its wind industry supply chain; it’s one of the few states that can manufacture all major parts of a wind turbine.  From design and manufacturing to installation and maintenance, Iowa companies (and their employees) are maximizing the economic impact of every dollar invested in wind.

Iowa community colleges and universities have also played a key role in training the wind industry workforce. Iowa’s community colleges are aggressively training wind energy technicians and analysts, and nearly all fifteen Iowa colleges’ have wind training courses.

The results are impressive: In a state of 3 million people, there are more than 6,000 wind industry employees and more than 200 companies paying more than $70 million in annual wages.  Property taxes from wind installations generate nearly $20 million and lease payments to landowners amount to $13 million every year.

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