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Renewable Energy Offering a Lifeline to Rural Schools

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

A review of Illinois renewable energy projects shows these projects’ revenues are increasingly critical to rural districts. Robert Scott, executive director of Power Up Illinois, analyzed almost $200M in property taxes that renewable energy projects made to school districts across the state and found that their funding has had considerable impact.

“In some cases, renewable energy projects have actually been the saving force keeping districts operating that otherwise would have had to merge or dissolve,” Scott said. “In all cases, the revenues have met or exceeded projections, generating investment in facilities and student services that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

“Illinois has one of the lowest percentages of state-funded support for schools in the country. Local revenue is essential to school districts and taxpayers,” he said. “Without new sources of property tax revenue, the tax burden in places where population is declining shifts to the remaining residents and businesses, spiraling year after year.”

Revenue from renewable energy projects has answered this need for many communities. Across the state projects have provided $193 million to schools. In La Salle County, projects have provided $30.4 million.

William Thomas of the Logan County Economic Development Partnership said that being home to three existing wind projects insulated Logan County from some of the economic impacts of the Covid-19 slowdown.

“With Covid-19 impacting our local businesses, schools, and colleges, we are fortunate to have the extra layer of certainty in local budgets that harvesting wind provides,” he said. “Reliable, locally controlled revenue sources allow us to continue major county projects, even in difficult economic times – including the renovation of county buildings and the construction of a new high school in Mt. Pulaski.”

Scott said he’s heard similar stories from across the state. “Districts with clean power projects have the flexibility to invest in new capital projects like building improvements, retain and invest in their teachers, and expand offerings and programs for students along the way. Thriving districts in turn become assets to their community - attracting more students and building a stronger community,” he said.

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