Investment in clean energy is critical to the improvement of public health, sustainable economies and limiting the effects of climate change. Building solar and wind farms not only saves Minnesotans money, it helps us compete in an increasingly global economy where clean energy jobs are the fastest growing subset of new jobs. From 2015-2016, clean energy sector jobs in Minnesota grew at a 5.3% rate, 3.8 times faster than all other job categories. Crafting policies that can help grow this sector is not only good for the environment, but good for our economy.
While Minnesota is considered a Midwest leader in creating clean energy jobs, the 8th Congressional District ranks last in the state for the creation of these jobs. This is simply unacceptable in a 27,000 square mile district that is home to some of the greatest natural resources our country has to offer. Leah is dedicated to expanding the creation of clean energy jobs through supporting the expansion of tax credits that can help grow solar energy farms throughout our district, like North Star Solar in Chisago County, and wind farms like Taconite Ridge Wind Energy Center in Mountain Iron.
Along with the jobs created during the construction of these energy production facilities, over 34,000 jobs in Minnesota during 2017, jobs are created and sustained for their upkeep and maintenance. Minnesota supports about 24,000 of these jobs. Replicating the success of North Star Solar and Taconite Ridge Wind Energy Center throughout the 8th District will not only lead to lower energy costs for consumers, but to growth in high paying jobs across the 8th District.
Solar, wind and geothermal energy adoption can be increased by incentivizing consumers to invest in these clean energy technologies. In Congress, Leah will work to extend the federal Business Energy Investment Tax Credit and the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. She will support legislation that extends both programs beyond 2022 and maintain each program’s 30 percent rebate. She will also seek to reintroduce popular tax credits for making your home more energy efficient and introduce a 30 percent tax credit on qualifying home improvements. These qualifying home improvements will include projects such as adding new insulation to an attic or crawl space, replacing an old furnace with an ultra-high efficiency unit, or replacing old drafty windows with new energy efficient ones.
Pumped Hydro Energy Storage
Overcoming the challenges of solar and wind energy, which produce intermittent energy resources, is one of the biggest challenges facing the clean energy industry. The energy they produce is difficult to store for stable, routine energy production. The 8th District is positioned to be a leader in this area, as we have unique energy storage opportunities. The Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota Duluth suggests recycling abandoned mine pits as one way to help invest in renewable energy. The process, known as Pumped Hydro Energy Storage, already exists in 40 sites throughout the U.S. It is a way to reliably store energy, a key element to expanding the use of clean energy in homes and businesses alike.
NRRI has recently reported on energy storage using abandoned mine pits and found “that the topography and water resources exist at various sites [on the Iron Range] that could allow a 100 to 200 MW [megawatt] facility to be constructed if the overall economic, mineral rights, and environmental issues associated with a given site can be properly managed.”