University Report Says Solar Can Have Significant Jobs Impact

A recent report was released by an Iowa State University research showing solar having a significant jobs impact. We think that Iowa is not only soon to be know for its tall corn and presidential politics but also as a leader in renewable energy. Wind as well as solar is really getting a foothold in the Hawkeye state creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Solar energy can shine a favorable light on job growth and economic benefits derived from expanded solar energy development in Iowa in a story in the Sioux City Journal by Rod Boshart. David Osterberg, executive director of the Mount Vernon-based Iowa Policy Project, released results of a solar jobs report his group produced in collaboration with the Iowa Environmental Council, Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Vote Solar Initiative that indicated state investment in solar energy would result in thousands of jobs.

Included in the solar report was a job-impact analysis by Iowa State University researcher David Swenson, who found that during the fifth year of a program to install 300 megawatts of photovoltaic power in Iowa, the equivalent of almost 5,000 jobs would be created and over $332 million in value added to Iowa’s economy. Swenson estimated installing 300 megawatts of solar over a five-year period would produce $174 million in value added to the economy, $302 million in increased industrial output, and $99 million in increased labor income annually both from direct and indirect effects during the ramp-up period.

“The job creation potential of the solar industry is surprisingly large,” Osterberg told a Statehouse news conference. He said the findings show that Iowa is at a point where policy makers either can “sit on the sidelines and watch as surrounding states attract the investment and jobs solar will inevitably bring,” or aggressively pursue solar energy as it did decades ago with wind in making the state a national leader in renewable energy production.

Osterberg noted that Iowa has 243 megawatts of wind-power capacity in 2000 that grew to about 3,675 megawatts in 2010 – aided heavily by state incentives and a need that 2 percent of utilities’ electricity production had to come from renewable sources. He said a similar surge could accompany a legislative directive to develop more solar sources. Other options could include production-based incentives, tax credits and waivers, an expansion of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation renewable energy standard, and low-interest financing programs, according to the Policy Project report.

“This is the right time for Iowa to strike,” said solar industry developer Tim Dwight, a former University of Iowa and NFL football star now with Integrated Solar Power, who noted that the report confirms what he has seen in the energy marketplace. “Everyone is looking for a way to create jobs, and the solar industry is a good investment here in Iowa where we already rely on the sun to power crop growth.”

“Wind power has created huge benefits for Iowa, and solar can do the same,” said Steve Falck, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Now is the time for the Legislature to stop searching and step up to the plate and turn this job-creating potential into reality.”

Todd Ettleman of Cedar Rapids-based Van Meter Industrial said he was excited about the possibilities of solar creating “this army of green renewable energy solution providers” that would include rooftop installers, electricians, builders, contractors, engineers, technicians, financiers, marketers and salespeople to build on a renewable energy industry that has been the state’s largest growth area in the last decade.

“Solar and wind energy is a great engine in terms of economic growth, innovation and job creation,” he said. The report noted that at least 25 Iowa businesses and nonprofits and 16 Iowa universities, colleges, community colleges, schools and libraries, as well as many private homes, use solar energy.