Iowa passed a new milestone for energy innovation, but we cannot stop now. We must double down on renewable energy development to not only retain our leadership position, but also to continue the economic comeback for rural Iowa.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 60 percent of Iowa’s energy came from wind last year. The total operating capacity in Iowa climbed to 11,660 megawatts (MW), up 13 percent from 2019. Iowa’s wind energy can power more than 2.5 million homes and helps save 7.1 billion gallons of water, all while helping to keep our electricity rates well below the national average.
Wind energy has played a crucial role in the revitalization of rural Iowa. Through land lease payments of nearly $70 million annually to Iowa landowners, wind can be the needed cash crop that helps save the family farm. But just as important, the new job creation in rural Iowa also helps to bring people back home. Nearly 10,000 Iowans are employed in Iowa’s wind industry, and many of these jobs are outside our city centers.
Iowa communities are able to leverage the $61 million in new tax revenue to rebuild and enhance vital infrastructure like roads, bridges and schools. This revenue comes at a critical time as rural Iowa has experienced years of population growth and declining tax revenue.
Last fall, I witnessed the economic impact renewable energy has firsthand. During Clean Energy Week, I joined several tours with the Iowa Conservative Energy Forum that highlighted wind, solar and biodiesel facilities throughout the 4th District. The job creation, coupled with the energy savings, highlighted the importance of our state’s commitment to renewable energy development.
Our state has also proven that it can build energy generation that withstands our Iowa winters. When generation sources of all types failed states like Texas, Iowa powered on. States need a mix of energy sources, including wind and solar, so we can capitalize on low fuel costs and provide more reliable local distribution.
Looking to the future, we need to work on enhancing our home-grown energy resources and ensuring our electric grid can keep up with the needs of tomorrow. Technology like energy storage and responsible energy-efficiency programs can continue to help advance Iowa in energy independence and prosperity.
Emerging generation sources such as biogas, community solar and more distributed resources can help us meet ever-increasing energy demands.
Renewable energy powers our daily lives and our state’s economy. Let’s keep it going.
Randy Feenstra was born and raised in Hull, Iowa, where he has served as City Administrator, Sioux County Treasurer and Iowa state Senator. In January, he began serving his first term in Congress, representing Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.