Renewables hold promise for Rural America new report shows

Most of the time, we tend to think of renewable energy as a “green” alternative to conventional fossil fuel plants that are part of a broader climate change solution. While that is true, it is sometimes overlooked the major positive impacts wind and solar energy development have on the economies of rural communities. Earlier this year, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) shined a light on some of the benefits in its “The Seeds of Opportunity” report. 

The report contains an optimistic message for rural communities in the decades to come. By welcoming renewable energy development, rural towns have the opportunity to diversify and build on their local economies. 

RMI’s report looks specifically at what economic benefits can be expected over the next ten years as clean power resources are scaled up. RMI anticipates that the U.S.’s renewable energy capacity could at least double by 2030 or more if smart policies that accelerate clean energy adoption are put in place. 

Here are some toplines: 

These findings are supported by newly released data from the American Clean Power Association. In 2020, U.S. wind and utility-scale solar contributed more than $2.6 billion in state and local taxes and land lease payments to Americans. You can find more on the rural benefits of renewable on our website

But what are a bunch of stats without the real stories where the rubber hits the road? The report showcases stories from across the country, demonstrating how clean energy projects and elements of their supply chains boost local economies. Take wind blade manufacturer TPI Composites and turbine tower manufacturer Arcosa Towers. Both companies set up shop in Newton, Iowa, about a 40-minute drive east of Des Moines. Since their arrival in 2008, both companies cumulatively employ 1,250 people, which helped cut the county’s unemployment rate from 10% in 2009 to only 2% today. The report noted that TPI pays over $50 million in annual wages to their employees—those earnings help grow families, support local businesses, and keep communities vibrant. (We highly recommend you download the report and read the other stories in the case studies section!)

“The Seeds of Opportunity” report looks at onshore wind and utility-scale solar, but they are also just a piece of the puzzle. Other technologies like energy storage systems and offshore wind also create direct and indirect benefits to communities across the country by providing additional tax revenue, jobs, infrastructure investment, and energy security. 

The takeaway is clear: renewable energy represents a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for rural communities. From projects to manufacturing facilities, clean energy will power America’s 21st-century economy! 

Read the full report at  

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