Illinois scored a major -- though largely unnoticed -- coup when a St. Louis University professor chose Pike County, in southwestern part of the state, to develop a new wind energy facility. The $250 million project, which is expected to break ground this spring, could generate millions in annual property taxes, lease payments to landowners, and other spending during and after construction -- not to mention up to 600 jobs. The project is helping to change Illinois' image in the energy-generation world. In a recent report about the project Reuters wrote, "Once known only for coal and nuclear, a robust renewable energy policy is making Illinois a magnet for commercial wind farm developers of all stripes."
Indeed, in 2007, the General Assembly passed a new and aggressive renewable energy standard, which stipulates that 25 percent of the electricity sold in Illinois by 2025 must be generated by renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. (A bill passed in 2009 establishes a similar system for natural gas utilities.) Lawmakers have also developed clear incentives for the development of energy-efficient affordable housing and public sector building construction and implemented its own strict pollution limits on mercury toxins that spew from the state's coal plants.
The wind mandate has been particularly effective. As part of the 2007 bill, 18 percent of the renewable energy required by 2025 is set to come from wind. The aggressive benchmark has helped Illinois corner the wind market. From Reuters: "The state is already outperforming others in supply. While Illinois ranks 14 among states for potential wind capacity, it is sixth nationwide in installed wind power for 2010, with nearly 2,000 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy."