County and state decision makers, public utility commissions and project owners can determine the economic impacts of new electricity generation projects using the Jobs and Economic Development Impact, or JEDI, models developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy national lab.
Despite a name that sounds like an ancient order of space knights from a famous film series, the JEDI models are user-friendly -spreadsheet-based systems that help determine jobs that might be created and other economic impacts of building power-generation systems that use wind, biomass or even solar energy. These estimates let JEDI help decision-making officials determine the viability of implementing a renewable energy project in their home regions.
David Loomis, associate professor of economics and director of the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, has used the models to further the applied research being done at the center.
“We wanted to do a state-level report to see what the economic impact of the 1,100 MW of wind development to date in Illinois will be over the next 25 years,” David said. “We found the bottom line was a $1.9 billion impact for the state and close to 300 long-term operations and maintenance jobs, plus about 6,000 jobs through construction.”
David likes using the JEDI modeling because it’s user-friendly and because it accounts for the nuances of estimating actual production of multiple wind farms in various locations. JEDI is also continuously updated so that the estimates do not become inaccurate as a result of outdated figures. The work David and his colleagues have done so far with JEDI has proved accurate.
“It’s been very trustworthy in mirroring what we’ve seen with the existing wind farms in Illinois,” he said. “In fact, we’re planning on doing a second version of our analysis because we’ll be up around 2,000 MW of wind power this summer, and we want to forecast our growth based on future new wind farms that are likely to come along.”
Using JEDI is not only easier than using the Force, but also it helps officials ensure that using renewable energy to generate electricity is not just something that’s possible in a galaxy far, far away — it’s creating clean energy and real positive economic effects here in the U.S.