• Connie Neininger

Purdue Report Highlights the Positives of Wind Energy in Indiana

Many of us have driven south of Chicago on I-65 just to be mesmerized by the ‘gentle giants’ turning gracefully in the fields. Yes, I’m talking about the wind turbines that have been producing power for more than a decade. I know, it’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the first wind turbine went online in Indiana. But that amount of time has allowed Purdue University to do an in-depth analysis of the community impact of wind power in Indiana and I am excited to share some of the results.

...renewable energy projects are capital intensive with a concentrated workforce that fits perfectly in rural communities.

Purdue University recently released their report, “An Examination of the Community Level Dynamics Related to the Introduction of Wind Energy in Indiana,” which states that the cumulative value of investments in Indiana’s wind sector is $5.0 billion – that is billion with a “B.” The report also states that there is persuasive statistical evidence that utility scale wind energy...

- raises average incomes in a county (Brown, et al 2012; De Silva, et al 2016),

- increases local tax base and tax revenue collection (De Silva, et al 2016), and

- improves yields of corn and other field crops (Kaffine, 2019).

Tell me, what other economic development project can make such claims in rural communities? As a past economic development director in a rural community, I know first-hand how difficult it is to get large corporations to look your way. The challenges are many, from broadband to transportation, and infrastructure to workforce, but a renewable energy project helps negate the challenges and accentuate the positives of living in a rural community. Today I’m not going to get into the yield improvements thanks to wind turbines, that conversation will be for another time, but let’s talk about the economic impact.

Yes, we have limited workforce, but renewable energy projects are capital intensive with a concentrated workforce that fits perfectly in rural communities. Many rural communities are limited on infrastructure capacity that would serve a large manufacturing plant; however, wind and solar farms can save the day as projects that have minimal infrastructure needs. Incredibly, these projects also mostly pay for the improvements that may be needed for a project, and then your community reaps the benefits of brand new roads and other infrastructure.

Benton and White Counties, our first two counties to have wind farms, are still seeing the large economic benefits today with Benton County collecting $4.3 million and White County collecting $2.3 million in property taxes in 2019. And that is an annual benefit that will continue for the life of the project, in addition to the annual payments to landowners that are estimated to be $3.7 million per year.

As Indiana’s energy mix is changing, now is the time to look for alternative opportunities. I hope our local elected officials will take the time to understand the economic benefits of wind and solar farms and seriously consider renewable energy as a viable economic opportunity. Here is a link to the Purdue study.

I hope you will take the time to understand the dynamics within Benton and White Counties, and reflect on how their decisions to support wind energy improved their rural communities. Yours could be next!