Study looks at wind energy boost for countiesSIOUX FALLS (AP) — Wind energy projects have provided a big economic boost to counties in wind-rich states such as the Dakotas, a new federal study has found.
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Wind energy projects have provided a big economic boost to counties in wind-rich states such as the Dakotas, a new federal study has found.
Researchers with the Economic Research Service, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied economic data from 1,000 counties in a dozen states from 2000 to 2008. They concluded that each megawatt of installed wind power led to an additional $11,000 in personal income and half a job per county, the media reported.
The economic benefits can come in the form of direct employment during construction and operation, lease payments to landowners, demand for local goods and services, tax payments or other spending.
South Dakota has 784 megawatts of installed wind power, according to the federal Energy Department. That would equate to an economic boost of more than $8.6 million. North Dakota has 1,469 megawatts, which would equate to more than $16 million.
The results are not generalizable outside of the 12-state study region, said lead author Jason Brown, an economist with the Economic Research Service, a part of the federal Agriculture Department.
"We're simply looking at where the development occurred and using econometric models to estimate the impacts," he said.
The future of wind power development is uncertain because a federal production tax credit is expiring at the end of the year and Congress might not renew it.
"You can't invest millions and millions of dollars (in a wind project) with that uncertainty," said Ron Rebenitsch, executive director of the South Dakota Wind Energy Association. "The silver lining: I've been encouraged by some smaller wind groups — community initiatives — folks looking to get a wind project developed in their area. It's under the radar screen, and these folks will be ready to move when the market opens up. That's one of the few lights that I see in an otherwise dark forecast."
In North Dakota, LM Wind Power, a maker of wind turbine blades, announced last month it is laying off more than 300 workers in Grand Forks. In South Dakota, Molded Fiber Glass, which also makes wind turbine blades, announced it was laying off nearly 100 employees in Aberdeen. Officials with both companies cited the uncertainty of the federal tax credit.