A new report shows Iowa’s wind energy industry supply chain involves more than 80 businesses, including 23 in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center on Tuesday said its analysis shows the state’s wind energy industry supports more than 2,300 manufacturing jobs, which could be the most of any state in the nation. Clipper Windpower in Cedar Rapids and Acciona North America in West Branch assemble large wind turbines, but the plants depend on components produced by a variety of smaller businesses and service providers in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Marion, Solon and other Eastern Iowa communities.
Alliant Energy’s Cedar Rapids-based subsidiary, Interstate Power and Light, MidAmerican Energy in Des Moines and NextEra Energy Resources are developers of large wind farms in Iowa. Other players participating in the supply chain provide everything from towers and blades to uniforms for technicians, attorneys handling legal issues and firms doing public relations and marketing.
In addition to the 80 companies and firms already involved with wind energy, the Environmental Law and Policy Center has identified 30 Iowa businesses that could also supply the industry if demand increases. They range from a Boone lubricant manufacturer to a Waterloo-based designer of custom gear boxes.
“Wind energy creates good jobs and business growth across Iowa and across different sectors,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Smart policies can bring more wind businesses to Iowa. That’s good for both economic growth and better environmental quality.”
Dee Baird, president of Priority One in Cedar Rapids, said the wind energy industry is expected to recover in the near term from a slump brought on by reduced electricity demand, lower prices for natural gas and financing issues.
“We attended the American Wind Energy Association conference and just returned from the European wind energy conference in Germany,” Baird said. “We’re getting the same indicators as this report that the wind energy industry will continue to grow in this region. We have a history of attracting major suppliers and our geographic location makes this an excellent place for European companies to establish a presence in North America.”
The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a public interest environmental legal advocacy organization, cites Iowa’s commitment to developing and retaining renewable energy jobs as a key factor that has enabled the state to become a leading wind energy generator and component manufacturer. The report also notes that Iowa has been aggressive in offering tax credits to encourage business retention and development.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center concludes its report by recommending federal policy changes that it contends will revitalize the wind energy industry, which has experienced a sharp drop in new capacity construction since the beginning of 2010.
A proposed federal renewable energy electricity standard would require all electric utilities who purchase power for consumers to buy a growing percentage of their electricity from renewable energy resources. Creating a minimum standard, which states like Iowa could exceed, would drive more national demand for wind-generated electricity.
The report also recommends continuation of the federal production tax credit and investment tax credit. The production tax credit of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour will end in 2012 unless it is extended and investment tax credit can be converted into a federal grant for wind-generated energy developers who do not have enough tax liability to take advantage of a credit.