U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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Wind Energy Brings Money to Rural Communities

Wind Energy Brings Money to Rural Communities

Date: 7/31/2007

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Larry Flowers, National Technical Director of Wind Powering America (MP3 4.0 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:04:12.

It's been more than 20 years since the first commercial wind farms were constructed and it's taken time for more Americans to catch on. But today, U.S. wind energy installations produce enough electricity to power over 2.5-million homes on a typical day.

National Technical Director of Wind Powering America Larry Flowers says it's clear wind energy can help meet the growing demand for clean sources of electricity. But he says there's also no question wind farms provide economic benefits for rural communities. Flowers says wind farm construction — as well as operations and maintenance of turbines — means jobs. Then for each of the jobs created directly by wind power more jobs are created indirectly. According to Flowers, there's also the benefit of land lease payments and the impact on the public tax base.

"These are capital intensive equipment, on the order of $1500 to $2000 a kilowatt, 1.5 million to 2 million dollars a megawatt, and that's a great tax base that goes into infrastructure, development in schools, health clinics, roads, all sorts of infrastructure projects. And there are many examples around the country of how that's really dramatically impacted the life and bloodstream of the rural community."

In fact, the town of Highmore, South Dakota, Flowers notes, receives one-fourth of its education budget as a result of property taxes from wind development in Hyde County. And Carbon County, Wyoming receives more than 30-percent of its property taxes from the wind farm there. Take all of the benefits into account and there's a great success story in Prowers County, Colorado where the assessed value increased by 32-million dollars because of the Colorado Green Wind Farm.

For those who want those benefits in their local community, Flowers says there are a number of factors to consider. He says it's important to think about the wind resource and the policy climate in the state.

"There are over 23 states that now have policies and encourage renewable energy development, requiring the utilities to put some percentage of their generation into renewables. And if you're in one of those states, that's a real strong incentive. The second thing to do is to look at your wind resource, that's the biggest driver in the economics of wind. Go to the website www.windpoweringamerica.gov and it has a detailed high-resolution windmap of most of the states in the country."

Flowers says interested parties can also get information from states with wind working groups and existing wind projects. He says the local farmers who are hosting projects and local leaders are a good resource and can explain how they got started and the benefits they've experienced. Those local leaders especially, Flowers says, are a great source of information.

"Your county commissioners are probably the most enthusiastic group because they see wind farms as really providing jobs, tax base and revenue to local communities. And county commissioners are often very good at sharing, sort of the process, of what they had to go through in order to understand what the wind farm opportunity is, as well as some of the challenges."

With over 200 wind projects in 30 U.S. states today, Flowers says there are plenty of folks with experience with wind projects and wind farms. And given the national interest in wind he says more are coming.

"There's a vision that's been put out by the President and has been embraced by the Department of Energy and the American Wind Energy Association about a 20% wind electricity scenario. We're talking about on the order of 300,000 megawatts of wind that could be put in rural America compared to 12,000 today. So that's like a 26-fold increase. That represents over 300 billion dollars in rural economic development to the United States. And it's those kinds of huge impacts to our rural economy that we really need to get the rural leaders and landowners to become alert to and to get engaged in."

Wind energy currently accounts for just two-tenths of one-percent of the U.S. energy supply. The top five wind-producing states include California, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

This information was last updated on August 23, 2007