Seeds of Opportunity: How Rural America Is Reaping Economic Development Benefits from the Growth of Renewables

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Despite a turbulent start to the 2020s, an important and positive message for rural America is emerging in the decade ahead: rural communities have a significant opportunity to strengthen and diversify their local economies by embracing and actively engaging in the ongoing renewable energy transition.

By 2030, renewable energy capacity in the United States will at least double, and potentially grow by a factor of seven or higher if new policies are enacted to capitalize on continuing cost declines in wind and solar. As a result, rural communities—which host 99 percent of onshore wind and a growing share of utility-scale solar projects—stand to receive a sizable boost to their local economies. In fact, annual revenues from wind and solar projects could exceed $60 billion dollars by 2030—on par with expected revenues from the top three US agricultural commodities: corn, soy, and beef production.

This report quantifies the scale of the economic development opportunity from the growth of onshore wind and utility-scale solar projects in rural areas, and demonstrates what that means for communities through case studies of existing projects from three different regions. The report offers recommendations for local, state, and federal leaders to unlock this opportunity. In total, our analysis suggests that the approximately 600 GW of new wind and solar projected to be built between 2020 and 2030 would generate $220 billion in lifetime value across rural America.

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