After spending last weekend at the Heartland Coalfield Alliance's retreat in the Illinois coal basin region, I'm more inspired than ever. Listening to such amazing, committed people talk about their tireless work to move beyond coal was really exciting. These activists know the potential for clean energy in their region -- especially wind power. And there has been some blockbuster news about wind in recent days.
Wind power is growing like gangbusters across the country, and employs more than 75,000 workers across 43 states. Just last week, Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy Co. announced it will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa wind power, which Governor Branstad called, "The largest economic development investment in the history of the state."
The project will lower energy bills, be built at no net cost to customers, generate millions of dollars for landowners, and "enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years," according to the Des Moines Register.
The clean energy stakes got even higher last week when Facebook announced it had chosen Iowa over Nebraska as the location for a $1.5 billion new facility. As state Senator Galen Hadley wrote in an op-ed:
The fact that Iowa generates 10 times as much electricity from wind as Nebraska was a major factor in [Facebook's] decision. We are dead last among our neighboring states in wind development despite the fact we have better wind potential than most of them, in large part because of public policies that have not supported wind development. I represent the Kearney area and know that we have everything but the wind energy component to offer projects such as Facebook.
State officials are seeing the economic boost that clean energy brings with it - a boost that doesn't come with the terrible health and environmental effects that dirty fuels have.