Wind energy set to generate nearly $2 billion in Illinois

by Antonio Pasolini on July 23, 2009

Chicago is known as the Wind City and now Illinois, the state where the city is in, may well be on the way to get the Windy State moniker. That is because a new economic impact study of wind energy development conducted by Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy has concluded that the wind energy industry in Illinois is projected to generate $1.9 billion in economic benefits for the state over the next 25 years.

The study, which was funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, examined the direct and indirect economic benefits, including jobs, tax revenues and payments to landowners, from the 17 major wind development projects online around the state. Those wind farms currently generate a total of 1,118 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

The state appears at number 10 in the United States in existing wind-powered generating capacity and ranks 16th in the nation in potential capacity. Wind power capacity grew rapidly in the state, from 50 MW in 2003 to over 1,000 MW in 2009, propelled by the passage of the Illinois Power Agency Act in 2007 which included a renewable portfolio standard of 25% by 2025, of which 75% of the renewable energy resources must come from wind.

“Wind energy in Illinois not only provides clean, renewable energy for the state’s energy needs but also provides tremendous economic development benefits,” said David Loomis, director of the Center for Renewable Energy and an associate professor of economics at Illinois State.

The study found that wind energy projects created 6,019 full-time equivalent jobs during construction periods with a total payroll of over $306 million. They also support 292 permanent jobs in rural Illinois areas with a total annual payroll of over $15 million. Wind energy projects benefit local economies by generating $11.4 million in annual property taxes and $4.36 million per year in extra income for Illinois landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. In total, wind energy will generate an economic benefit of $1.9 billion over the life of the projects.

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