But Obama’s promise of preserving natural resources and jump-starting the economy ran smack into the reality of this economically struggling town of about 16,000 about 30 miles east of Des Moines.
The wind energy plant where he spoke, and received a tour beforehand, is a shadow of what it replaced – a Maytag Corp. appliances plant that built washers, dryers, and refrigerators and employed about 4,000 in jobs that paid about $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
Trinity Structural Towers has roughly 90 people working at the old Maytag site, a number that is expected to grow to about 140. Mark Stiles, a senior vice president at Trinity, which builds the towers that support wind turbines, said workers at his factory make a comparable salary, about $17 an hour plus benefits. “This is a piece of the recovery, but we think it’s a nice piece,” Stiles said.
The president announced his administration is creating the nation’s first program to authorize offshore projects to generate electricity from wind turbines, ocean currents, and waves. Afterward, the Interior Department issued long-awaited regulations governing offshore renewable energy projects that establish how leases will be issued and sets in place revenue sharing with nearby coastal states, which would receive 27.5 percent of the royalties generated from electricity production.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said applications are expected for dozens of proposed offshore wind projects, many off the north and central Atlantic Coast in the coming months, and that he expects the first electricity production from some of the offshore projects in two or three years.
“This will open the gates for them to move forward. . . . It sets the rules of the road,” Salazar said.
Obama said that wind could generate as much as 20 percent of US electricity demand by 2030 if its full potential is pursued on land and offshore. It would also create as many as 250,000 jobs, he said. “As with so many clean-energy investments, it’s win-win: good for environment and great for our economy,” the president said.
But wind-produced electricity totals just under 2 percent of all electricity generated, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.
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