• Connie Neininger

Rural Communities Receive Economic Boost from Renewable Energy

Updated: Sep 20

If you need an example of a difficult year, 2020 would be a good place to start, with the economic downturn and the global pandemic making for stormy weather. For many of our rural communities, already facing tough economic times, the year’s challenges have created the perfect storm.

In such a storm the promise of newfound revenue and economic opportunity may seem a lifeboat. Fortunately for many of our Hoosier communities, renewable energy projects can provide an economic boost. This was detailed recently in a new study by Dr. Michael Hicks, Ball State University economist, in his report, Cost Savings and Other Economic Benefits of Shift to Renewable Energy.

Renewables will stabilize energy prices, move energy production into more Indiana communities, add to the tax rolls of those counties, and provide economic growth in areas that might not see a new development project for years to come – a win-win for economic development at a time when we need it most.

Dr. Hicks found that Indiana is in the midst of an amazing shift to renewable energy, creating new sources of revenue for many communities across the state. “A single project can generate more than $1 million in property taxes and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes,” Dr. Hicks said.

Services such as schools, libraries, fire departments and emergency personnel, public utilities, and roads can be funded. The total county assessed valuation will rise. A single project will bring immense benefits to the community.

For example, Dr. Hicks modeled the effects of a single 50MW wind or solar project in an Indiana county, and the results are exciting. Next week, our blog will look at the jobs aspect, but today I want to focus on the tax revenue, and what that means for our communities.

Importantly, Dr. Hicks also notes the geographic mix of electric power generation will, through the increase of renewable energy, be more widespread across Indiana than coal production, or mining, which is located in just three counties. Renewable energy projects, including solar, wind and biomass, are attracted to the open land surrounding rural communities. So, it won’t just be one or two projects, but many throughout our state. And when you connect such projects to rural landowners and farmers who are looking for alternative income sources to help counter the trade challenges and to rural counties that are financially challenged, you have the start of a real solution to many rural community’s economic challenges.

Dr. Hicks’ report offers hope. Indiana’s rural communities can look to renewable energy as a way to provide the economic boost that will help them pay for the services needed by their residents.

Learn more about the Hicks Study.