III. Wind Energy’s Benefits and Government Actions
Wind energy has expanded greatly in recent years. This expansion is largely due to
political backing brought forth by both Federal and State governments. Governments
have seen wind energy as an energy source that is both environmentally friendly and as
a way to revitalize economies in rural areas that have been lagging in recent decades.
This section will discuss the environmental and economic impacts of wind energy and
the legislative efforts at both the Federal level and in the State of Illinois that have
encouraged this expansion.
Wind energy is considered economically friendly because it is a renewable resource.
Renewable resources are defined by Webster’s as any natural resource (such as wood or
solar energy) that can be replenished naturally with the passage of time. The AWEA
points out that wind energy generation doesn’t involve the use of mining, drilling,
transportation of fuel, or water usage, and does not generate radioactive or other
hazardous or polluting waste. It was also estimated by the Midwest Independent
System Operator (MISO) that the release of approximately 1,300 pounds of carbon
dioxide, a greenhouse gas, are avoided for every mega-watt-hour of wind generation2.
The economic impacts of the building of a wind farm are felt both in the construction
and operational phases of the project. A case study by researchers at Northern Arizona
University estimated the economic results of the construction of wind farms of various
sizes in two northern Arizona counties, Coconino County and Navajo County. The
case study found that economic activity increased by $10.29 - $12.43 million during the
construction phase in Coconino County and by $9.91 - $12.51 million in Navajo
County. Economic activity would increase between $0.74 and $1.00 million per year
during the operation and maintenance phase in Coconino County. Navajo County was
thought to have increased activity of $1.24-$1.67 million per year. A median estimate
of 142 and 152 additional jobs were created during the construction phase, while full-time
equivalent jobs equaled 29 and 263.
In its Wind Energy Fact Sheet entitled “Wind Energy: The Difference Wind Makes”,
the AWEA highlights several empirical examples of the local economic benefits of wind
2 American Wind Energy Association, “The Difference Wind Makes.”
3 Williams, Susan K., Tom Acker, Marshall Goldberg, and Mega Greve. 2008. Estimating the
Economic Benefits of Wind Energy Projects Using Monte Carlo Simulation with Economic Input/Output
Analysis. Wind Energy. Published online in Wiley Interscience.
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