Henry County, Ill., prides itself on its hog, soybean and cattle farms. There’s a lovely farmers’ market every September in Kewanee, and for the culturally minded, a theater in the round in Geneseo. But in recent years this rural stretch in the land of Lincoln, some 16 miles (25.75 kilometers) from the Mississippi River, has become prominent for another reason: green energy.

Call it, green, clean or renewable; Henry County has effectively used alternative energy to spur economic development. With two ethanol plants, 133 wind turbines under construction and an additional 134 in the offing, Henry County has become a model of America’s clean energy industry. The payoff has been immediate as the community boasts an unemployment rate of 6.9 percent, far lower than nearby counties.