NORMAL, Ill. -- The answer to Illinois' shaky economy could be riding in with the wind.
At a press conference on Tuesday, David Loomis, director of Illinois State University's Center for Renewable Energy said wind farms aren't just a green option in energy. They're stimulating local economies, adding $5.8 billion over the lifetime of the projects and already making over 19,000 construction and maintenance jobs.
"It's important that decision-makers are educated about the economic development impact wind energy has on state and local communities so that informed decisions regarding future adoption of wind energy projects can be made," said Loomis.
The report, released Tuesday at the sixth annual Advancing Wind Energy in Illinois conference states that wind farms have added 814 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of nearly $48 million. The farms also generate $28.5 million in annual property taxes and $13 million a year in extra income for landowners who lease their land to developers.
But there is a concern for the future of wind farms. At the end of this year, the Production Tax Credit, created to offset the cost of producing electricity during a wind farm's first 10 years, is set to expire. Many wind farm projects are now on hold, due to the uncertainty of an extension of the federal tax break.
"In order to keep new jobs coming from wind energy, we need to see important state and federal policies in place," said Loomis. "We're on the cusp of seeing real price declines, which is why the subsidy is needed."
Illinois continues to be a leader in wind energy development, leading the nation in 2011 with 404 turbines installed. McLean County leads the state with permitted wind farm projects.