Renewable energy impacts extend beyond reducing the global carbon footprint. The manufacturing, construction and operation of renewable energy components and facilities can improve the local economy in rural areas with otherwise limited opportunities.
In recent years, small communities throughout the United States have embraced the eco-friendly energy boom and reaped the environmental and economic benefits.
New Job Opportunities
Rural communities throughout the United States are struggling to recover following the Great Recession. Populations are declining as residents relocate to larger cities, and career options are becoming limited. Fortunately, communities with the most significant unemployment rates are also among those with the highest potential for success in the renewable energy sector.
Benton County, Indiana, boasts 560 wind turbines. The construction of wind farms created temporary positions for many workers. Locals who took the time to learn new trades could then find employment on other wind farms being constructed throughout the area. After the wind projects were finished, the community added 95 new jobs for operation and maintenance positions. The county’s tourism revenue increased as well. Officials now hold wind farm tours that help generate additional income.
Landowners in Benton County also benefit from reduced property taxes and payments for the use of their land. Because turbines maintain a relatively small footprint, farmers can still plant their crops without experiencing any downtime. Wind farm revenue is helping pay down the county’s debts and reinvest in the community as a whole.
Boosted Local Economies
Ultimately, the cost of living in communities depends on the prices for goods and services. In rural communities, these items may be more inexpensive, but salaries are correspondingly lower, which makes it more difficult for community members to afford their daily expenses. The renewable energy industry generates careers with a relatively higher income, which enable workers to afford their daily expenses more easily and, in turn, improve their standard of living.
For example, during wind farm construction in Benton County, numerous temporary workers fueled the local economy while they lived in the area by shopping at local stores and renting rooms at local apartments and hotels. The wind turbine construction created new jobs that provided residents with more disposable income to spend at local businesses. The area’s public schools also benefited from a portion of the wind farm revenue.
More than 70 percent of the nation’s wind farms are located in areas faced with economic hardship. Miami, Texas, recently became home to the first wind farm in the Texas panhandle. Residents benefited from new job opportunities, royalties from the land use and tax payments. As part of the construction, local roads were resurfaced and improved to accommodate large equipment. Additionally, wind turbine upkeep and maintenance resulted in more than 15 new full-time jobs for area residents.
The declining cost of wind and solar energy makes renewables an attractive investment for larger corporations interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Large companies, including Walmart and GM, are committing to use more renewable energy to lower their emissions. The increased demand for renewables will benefit rural towns throughout the United States.
The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, located near Joshua Tree National Park in Riverside County, Calif., provides enough solar energy for nearly 160,000 homes. Construction of the solar farm created new temporary jobs in the community. An influx of workers generated an estimated $27 million in combined revenue from sales and property taxes.
Revenue from the solar facility is also going toward educating children from elementary to high school in renewable energy. Area colleges have developed programs to educate and train workers in the renewable energy field. As more community members receive training in new skills, they expand their employment options and increase their job-finding potential.
Rural communities throughout the United States will continue to reap economic and environmental benefits as long as they embrace the renewable energy boom.
Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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