AWEA’s Message to Republican Presidential Hopefuls: Wind Power Works

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.

Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, will join Branstad and Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, at the wind power party, in the Iowa State Center’s Scheman Building. Made in Iowa: candidates to sign huge wind turbine blade at straw poll. Blade factory created jobs in town left by Maytag.

Candidates for President and Iowa voters will have the opportunity to literally touch the economic power of wind energy at this year’s presidential straw poll. TPI Composites, Inc., a leading American wind turbines component manufacturer, will display a 130-foot-long wind turbine blade, which was made right in Iowa, at a factory in Newton.

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.

Wind power is not only a mainstream source of electricity in Iowa, producing 20 percent of the state’s electricity, but across the country as well. The American wind power industry has installed 35 percent of all new electric generating capacity since 2007.

Wind power has been a growing contributor to Iowa’s economy for the last 30 years, and today, Iowa is a national leader in wind farm installations and manufacturing. The industry has spurred more than $5 billion in investment in Iowa, making it one of the state’s fastest-growing sources of manufacturing jobs.

All of the Republican presidential candidates are planning to sign the blade during the run-up to Saturday’s straw poll, and the general public can sign it as well. In addition, Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, U.S. Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King, and a host of other Republican Iowa elected officials plan to put their pens to the Iowa-made wind blade. The TPI blade is located next to the American Wind Power tent.

"Today wind turbines are almost as much a part of Iowa’s fabric as corn," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "Thanks to over 20 years of sound policy, wind power now comprises over 20 percent of the electricity powering the Hawkeye State, and the people of Iowa are glad it’s here. A recent statewide poll showed that 81 percent of Iowa voters believe the growth of the wind industry has been good for Iowa’s economy, and they would pick wind over any other power source by more than 3-to-1.

"And just as wind power has arrived in Iowa, it has arrived right here in Ames this week—in the form of a TPI Composites blade. We thank TPI Composites and General Electric for sharing this product with the presidential candidates, with attendees of the straw poll, and with America."

The TPI Composites factory in Newton, Iowa, is just one of many wind energy facilities in the state: Iowa has over 200 wind-related businesses in 55 counties. The blade on display at the straw poll was constructed by a team of 700 people and uses the same design as many of the blades currently generating power throughout the state, whose wind farms total 3,675 MW wind farm in capacity. General Electric is a major customer for TPI’s blades.

Where other manufacturing industries have failed, wind power has succeeded. Newton, in fact, was once home to a Maytag plant that closed its doors and moved overseas in 2006. A portion of the Maytag facility is now occupied by another wind power supply chain member, Trinity Structural Towers. And TPI Composites is now providing well-paying U.S. jobs ranging from construction labor to aerospace design.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Branstad in 1983, Iowa enacted the nation’s first renewable energy standard, which required Iowa’s major utilities to include renewables in their portfolios, thus establishing a market for wind power so that the industry had the stability that would allow it to grow roots. Today, with a stable renewable policy in place for almost 30 years, Iowa has been able to take advantage of the economic benefits of wind energy such as job creation and manufacturing growth, new tax revenue for rural areas that need it, and land lease payments to farmers and landowners.