Our region of the country is securing its popularity for renewable energy projects, according to a report from the Center for Rural Affairs.

Lucas Nelsen, who authored the report “Link to Rural Development and a Renewable Future,” says 41% of the new energy generation projects that went online last year were specifically wind energy projects.

“It’s really important, primarily because of where that generation is being built,” Nelsen says. “That generation is most often built in the Midwest and Great Plains and especially near rural areas where there’s abundant resources and a lot of space to put those projects.”

While the projects bring a host of benefits to rural communities, he says barriers remain to renewable energy.

“Those benefits can range from new tax revenue, new jobs in the community, new economic activity and some guaranteed income for landowners who host those projects,” Nelsen says. “There are some roadblocks to that development and one of those roadblocks has been new transmission infrastructure to connect those projects to the grid.”

Nelsen says one key to solving those transmission problems lies in proper planning.

“The best thing people can do is make sure they’re helping to improve these projects, that they’re finding out what a project might mean for their area, that they’re looking at maps at community meetings with developers and pointing out areas of concern they want the developers to avoid,” Nelsen says, “and making sure that the process runs smoothly.”

Nelsen says the report shows “wind turbine technician” is the fastest growing profession in the country and the Department of Energy estimates the wind industry could support up to 380,000 jobs by 2030. The wind industry employs some 7,000 Iowans.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton