Many small towns like Fowler, IN never expected that renewable energy projects would be the saving grace of their communities. But when wind developers make $17 million in payments to your county, and spent millions more on roads and infrastructure improvements, the benefits are hard to ignore.
So how does a green new deal stack up for the heartland?
Rural economies have faced population declines, stagnant job growth, and a lack of opportunities for development and prosperity across the country. Over the last decade, however, a change has appeared on the horizon. Communities in rural states have seen more and more green energy installations popping-up. A landscape once filled with smoke emitting coal plants has given way to majestic wind powered turbines churning power and energy. A big upswing in clean green energy, due primarily to a drastic reduction in the price of renewables, has begun to take hold in these impacted communities. If proponents had their way, a Green New Deal, focused on expanding clean technology through smart growth strategies, would only further help to revive these communities by spurring job growth, updating infrastructure, and providing much needed economic stimulus to rural America.
When we say “stagnant job growth” or “lack of opportunities” it is easy to forget what this means. Rural economies were once vibrant places where family farms and small businesses were plentiful. But as efficiencies in industry increased, smaller plants and farms have consolidated. Coupled with a population decline from younger residents moving to metro areas, rural communities have suffered. The family farm, the economic unit that gave birth to the United States, has struggled to keep pace. But green technology has the ability to bring renewed resources to the region.
A Green New Deal Improves Security for Rural America
Rural communities are not well served by an ageing infrastructure. Traditional energy systems based on fossil fuels employ a sizeable centralized infrastructure ~ huge power stations, and big mines tucked away below the ground. Since many countryside towns and communities were electrified as part of President Roosevelt’s original New Deal in the 1930s, there has been little updating. Power lines originate at many coal and natural gas power stations and extend out across the landscape. The smaller scale infrastructure, far away from the big national grids, suffers from low-volume and high operation and maintenance costs. This cost to utility relationship affects energy security, and the end cost is carried mainly by the consumer.
But green technology is proving to be an apt solution to updating this deteriorating infrastructure. Green tech builds security & infrastructure for many local economies. In Benton County, home of Fowler, local roads were built and improved on at the tune of $33 million. The permanence of this green growth offers security for local residents and businesses. Power and road infrastructure will be maintained. This security also enables confidence in the future, and confidence brings more investments.
Investment in Renewables is Bringing Back Local Jobs
Clean tech is also bringing countless new jobs to struggling areas. In the Midwest, over 8,000 new jobs were added in the clean energy sector alone. In Benton County Indiana, wind investment brought 110 permanent jobs and $17 million in revenue. This has a real influence on local economies.
“Benton County didn’t see the recession until 2011, the wind industry helped keep things open,” said Bryan Berry, county commission president.
The Benton County story is being played out all over the midwest. A recent NRDC report points out that in nearly all Midwestern states wind and solar employ about the same or more people than do fossil fuels. The rust belt states in the midwest are powering the green future, fancy that.
Green Tech Brings More Economic Opportunities to Local Economies
Green technologies are “financially viable investments” all by themselves. Moreover, green growth is not only limited to power generation. It attracts investment from companies that need cheap power, and lots of it. Large tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have recently placed data centers near locations where green electricity is available. Thus being able to green their brands and meet their electricity needs. Apple is leading this push with a $1.3 billion construction project for a new data center in rural Iowa. A green new deal stands poised to change that. Bold legislative action, funneling investment, giving infrastructure security and attracting large businesses to rural economies that need it the most. Rural areas have, after all, an advantage over urban areas. They have the space needed for wind and solar; the wide open spaces required to power the future of America and the world.
Do you have examples of green energy helping rural economies? Join the conversation by connecting with us on Twitter to explore how the Green New Deal can bring security and opportunities to rural America.