Illinois continued to increase in its new investment from the wind energy sector this past year, according to a recent U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report from the American Wind Energy Association.
The report said Illinois businesses, consumers, farmers and local communities are benefiting from advancements in wind energy. Across the country, wind is creating jobs for new power, and Illinois added $1 billion in new investment in 2019, adding jobs in tax revenue and land lease payments.
There are wind farms in the Kankakee area, including the Pilot Hill Wind Farm in western Kankakee County and in Iroquois County in Milks Grove Township northwest of Watseka near the Indiana state line. Other wind farms have been proposed in the area. The Pilot Hill location is a 103-turbine, 14,700-acre wind farm that sells power to Microsoft.
Nationally, wind power is a growing energy source and a source of new electrical generation in many states. Power Up Illinois, a statewide coalition of pro-growth voices supporting wind’s role as an essential private stimulus for Illinois, reacted to the report by citing the economic benefits wind is providing.
Wind does more than power Illinois’ communities and businesses, the organization says. The ripple effects of surging wind investment are providing a needed boost to Illinois’ economy and local governments, according to Power Up Illinois. In addition to wind investment in Illinois increasing by $1 billion last year to $10.9 billion, wind energy workforce levels grew to 8,000-9,000 jobs supported by the wind supply chain, making Illinois third in the country for wind employment.
State and local tax revenue from wind projects grew 22% in 2019, or $9 million, to $49 million annually. And annual land lease payments more than doubled to $37 million.
“State and federal leaders have made enormous progress in fixing Illinois’ critical infrastructure. Wind energy projects provide additional private stimulus dollars to aid in these efforts,” said Dane Simpson, director of the Great Plains Laborers Employers Cooperation Education Trust. “Wind farms generate $49 million in tax revenue every year. And each wind turbine in Illinois equals approximately 20 construction jobs. Those are well-paid jobs with benefits that sustain families and communities. Dollars earned during wind-farm construction return to pay mortgages and sustain grocery stores, car dealers, and strengthen local economies.”
AWEA’s report finds that Illinois is now generating 5,350 megawatts of wind energy, becoming the sixth state to surpass 5,000 MW and producing enough energy to power more than 1.2 million homes.
Local residents can learn how to work in the wind farm industry through Kankakee Community College’s sustainable energy programs. KCC’s Advanced Technology Center was completed in December 2018, and the 12,000-square-foot ATEC building has classrooms and training spaces for wind generation, solar thermal, solar-voltaic systems and electrical instruction.
“It offers the opportunity for folks who don’t even really understand the sustainability of renewable energy to come out and put it into practice,” said Paul Carlson, KCC’s associate dean of business and technology, at ATEC’s opening last year.