Renewable Energy: The Midwest’s New Economic Muscle

December 18, 2017

Government, businesses, utilities and advocates across the Midwest made huge strides in 2017 to strengthen and expand the region’s robust renewable energy economy. From investments made by Facebook, Apple and General Motors, to bipartisan leadership at the state level at a time of partisan gridlock in Washington, to job growth in the renewable energy sector outpacing job growth overall by wide margins – the Midwest region is emerging as an economic leader in the global transition to renewable energy.

Here is a roundup of 10 top stories from 2017 highlighting the Midwest’s leadership in this sector:

  1. Iowa ranks #1 in the nation for wind energy as a share of total electricity generation and currently generates over 36% of its electricity from wind power,  enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 1.85 million average U.S. households. Source: American Wind Energy Association
  2. Minnesota is home to the largest community solar program in the country, increasing access to renewable energy for residents, businesses, nonprofits and municipalities without having to install solar panels on their own roof or property.  Source: Xcel Energy
  3. Illinois is #2 on the latest Grid Modernization Index (GMI), which ranks each state on the support it provides for grid modernization, customer engagement related to modernization and the deployment of advanced grid technologies. Source: Daily Energy Insider 
  4. Michigan-based General Motors commits to purchasing 200 megawatts of wind energy from wind farms in Ohio and Illinois.  By the end of 2018, GM’s Ohio and Indiana manufacturing facilities will be powered 100% by renewable energy. Source: General Motors
  5. Ohio lands a $750 million investment from Facebook for a new data center in New Albany, with access to wind power cited as central to the deal.  “Everything here has been as advertised — from a committed set of community partners and strong pool of talent to the opportunity to power our facility with 100 percent renewable energy. The Buckeye State is a great place to do business” said Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy. Source: Government Technology Magazine
  6. The Clean Jobs Midwest report announced 599,775 jobs in clean energy across a 12-state region of the Midwest.  Job growth across sectors including renewable energy generation, advanced grid, energy efficiency, clean fuels and advanced transportation is occurring almost five times faster than overall job growth in the region.  Source: Clean Energy Trust
  7. Apple announced it will build a new $1.375 billion data center in Waukee, Iowa, which will be 100 percent powered by wind energy. While there are a number of reasons Apple chose this location (second lowest cost of doing business, availability of skilled workers), there’s one reason that is unique to the Hawkeye State – Iowa is the easiest state in the country for companies to purchase renewable energy.  Source: Iowa Economic Development
  8. With the rare power to bridge the partisan divide, on the one-year anniversary of Illinois’ pioneering Future Energy Jobs Act, all four major contenders for the governor’s office weighed in to voice support for the state’s clean energy economy.  See Governor Bruce Rauner’s (R) tweet here, and his Democratic opponents’ tweets herehere and here.
  9. One of the largest solar projects east of the Mississippi came online in Michigan — DTE’s Lapeer solar park, with 200,000 panels powering 11,000 homes. Source: DTE Energy
  10. AEP Ohio submitted a $10 million proposal to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support the state’s growing appetite for electrified transportation. If approved, it would be the first public charging station program to be authorized by regulators in the Midwest, paving the way for greater power sector engagement to accelerate the EV market to the benefit of all utility customers. Source: Natural Resources Defense Council