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Wind power

Upgrades to Iowa's growing wind industry are causing the retired blades to be relegated to landfills, which weakens the industry's claim that it's an environmentally friendly source of energy.

The U.S. wind industry is booming — expanding from just 1.5 gigawatts of cumulative installed capacity in 1998 to 96.4 gigawatts of installed capacity in 2018.

At the same time, the cost of these projects continues to go down. According to the newly-released 2018 Wind Market Technologies Report from the U.S. Department of Energy, the average cost of constructing a wind energy project in 1983 was $4,478 per kilowatt-hour. In 2018, the cost dropped to just $1,468 per kilowatt hour.

This stunning $3,010 decrease per kilowatt-hour is indicative of the growth of the industry as the U.S. transitions to a clean energy economy.

Not even a decade ago, wind energy accounted for 1.2% of all electricity production in Nebraska. In 2018, the percentage of Nebraska’s electricity produced by renewable wind energy was up to 14.1% — a 1,075% increase in just eight years. Looking ahead, the country is poised to add more than 68 additional gigawatts of wind power capacity.

As this growth continues to compound and prices keep falling, the state has an opportunity to continue harnessing the benefits of wind energy.

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Tax revenue generation and job creation bring new opportunities to rural Nebraska. Last year, wind projects in Nebraska generated approximately $8.5 million in total tax payments to state and local governments, providing much needed revenue to the state’s rural counties.

As market forces continue to favor renewable energy over fossil fuels, Nebraska has an opportunity to stake its claim in a clean energy economy.

Cody Smith, Ames, Iowa

Policy associate, Center for Rural Affairs

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