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Wind Energy Projects: A Winning Situation for Local Economies

Wind Energy Projects: A Winning Situation for Local Economies

Date: 9/14/2007

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

Audio with John Stulp, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture (MP3 3.2 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:23.

Prior to taking on the role of Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of Colorado, John Stulp served as a County Commissioner in Prowers County for a number of years. During his time as County Commissioner, Stulp was part of a large wind energy project — the 162-megawatt Colorado Green Wind Farm. Stulp was not only approached as a commissioner, but also as a landowner. As a result, he says he had the unique opportunity to investigate wind farms from both perspectives.

In the end, Stulp says the county did enter into a lease.

"As commissioner, we worked with the developers on setting up some of the land use needs and went to some of the hearings that were conducted by our land use office and eventually a 162 megawatt wind farm was built in Prowers County."

Stulp says the project was more than a win-win — it was a winning situation for all parts of the economy. He says that includes the host ranches and farms for the wind farm, the agriculture community, 400 employees who worked on site during the construction phase, and ultimately, the community as a whole.

"That was a tremendous payroll and a big part of that got spent within Prowers County. And so that impacted a lot of our merchants and service providers in the community, and up and down Main Street there was a noticeable positive impact of increased economic activity. And this was during a period that we'd had several years of severe drought and our agriculture community was somewhat depressed, and this really gave a shot in the arm economically to the business community and certainly gave a lot of people hope for the future. Beyond that, we saw a great boost in our tax base. Our county assessed evaluation jumped by nearly 30 percent."

The Colorado Green Wind Farm project has already been expanded. Stulp says the newest addition in neighboring Bent County adds 50 turbines and increases the state's wind energy generation capacity by 25-percent, or 75 megawatts. He says Bent County will soon see the same short-term and long-term benefits Prowers County did.

"There's some permanent jobs that go with the wind farm. And in a fairly sparsely populated area, like eastern Colorado, why 12 to 14 new jobs, these jobs are good paying, good benefits and they help keep some of our young people in the community. And 14 jobs doesn't sound like a lot to some large metropolitan areas, but for eastern Colorado, that's a significant number of jobs for a rural community."

That's why Stulp says he'll work to bring future wind projects to Colorado as the state's Ag Commissioner.

"This is a wonderful economic development tool for rural communities and for agriculture specifically. And yet at the same time it's a renewable product, it's a clean product."

Stulp says construction is underway in Colorado that would add another 700-megawatts of electricity bringing the total amount of energy produced by wind in the state to more than one-thousand megawatts. He says people have seen the ripple effect these projects have on the communities and are asking when the next wind farm's coming. If it was up to Stulp, every rural community would have a wind farm and every farm or ranch would have wind turbines.

This information was last updated on September 14, 2007