Wind energy now generates 20 percent of Iowa’s electricity

As the nation’s eyes turn to the Hawkeye State for this weekend’s Iowa Straw Poll in the Republican presidential race, they will catch a glimpse of what wind power has already done for Iowans—from providing 20 percent of the state’s electricity to creating a new manufacturing sector—and what wind turbines can do for America.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and other state officials will join the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in sharing wind’s powerful message this week in Ames: wind farm works for Iowa, which has become a national leader since adopting the first renewable electricity standard in 1983.

What’s telling about Iowa is that these people who know wind power the best are big fans of the clean, renewable energy source. A full 81 percent of Iowa voters believe that the growth of the wind industry has been good for Iowa’s economy, according to a recent poll by GOP pollster Neil Newhouse. Further, Iowa voters chose wind power, by a 3-to-1 margin, as their preferred energy source to power their state.

"With Iowa standing tall as the first state to produce 20 percent of its electricity with wind power, the Straw Poll is a terrific opportunity to share the power of wind to support local economies as well as generate clean energy," said American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode. "Iowa is reaping the economic benefits of being a wind farm power leader because it had the foresight to plant a seed over 20 years ago with the implementation of strong, sound policy. Iowa is showing the nation how it can be done."

Gov. Branstad, who in his first year as governor in 1983 signed the nation’s first renewable energy standard, will speak on Friday evening at a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 for the hundreds of members of the media credentialed to cover the Straw Poll.

Branstad returned to the Iowa governorship in January to find an industry transformed, and one that now helps anchor the state’s economy. Thanks to the policy seeds he planted, over 200 wind-related businesses now operate in 56 Iowa counties adding over $5 billion to the Iowa economy.

In 2010 alone, wind farm owners paid $16.5 million in property taxes and an additional $11 million in land lease payments to property owners.

Thus, Iowa illustrates for the rest of America the breadth of economic benefits from wind: manufacturing activity, tax revenue for rural areas that often need it most, and steady revenue streams for farmers, who operate in a notoriously high-risk business environment.

Branstad is not Iowa’s only trailblazing public official in the area of wind power. On Capitol Hill, fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley is credited with being instrumental in the development of the federal Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which was established in the 1990s and continues to be the key financial policy driver for the wind industry to this day (in spite of being extended in only in short-term increments through the years). Today, Iowans are highly familiar with wind power, and the industry enjoys strong bipartisan support.