Electricity from the Wind...
Development for Rural Communities
to the Nebraska Energy Quarterly
may seem hard to believe, but according to the U.S. Department of Agricultureís
2003 farm income forecast, 94 percent of total farm household income comes
from off-farm sources. Many rural families work off-farm jobs in addition
to farming to make ends meet.
Dan McGuire, chief executive officer of the American Corn Growers Foundation,
said that low commodity prices combined with high production costs are responsible
for this. McGuire said that the farm income forecast is a compelling reason
for farmers and ranchers to support wind energy because it provides a source
of income and fosters economic development in rural communities. Wind
farming does pay, he said.
Renewable Energy Wind Farm in Minnesota
McGuire cites a Minnesota project that demonstrates why farmers, ranchers
and rural communities should get involved with wind energy as a new source
of income. The Kas Brothersí wind farm at Pipestone, completed in 2001,
is the first farmer-owned commercial wind farm in the United States. Developer
Dan Juhl installed two NEG Micon 750-kilowatt turbines with an estimated
annual electricity production of 4.5 million kilowatt-hours. That wind farm
now yields $30,000-$40,000 annually for the first 10 years of operation
and is expected to yield $110,000-$130,000 annually thereafter, depending
on the level of electricity production.
McGuire said this project is an excellent example of community-based economic
development. Local contractors Olsen Electric and K-Wind participated. Xcel
Energy contracted to purchase the electricity. Local banks provided the
financing. The wind turbine, the power contract, the maintenance agreement
and insurance allow the banks to make the loans with little risk. Local
ownership also keeps the electricity revenue circulating in the community.
This wind farm model is so successful that Juhl has several new projects
in the works.
Although Minnesota has emerged as a leader in implementing wind energy in
rural communities, Texas is also setting an example for states to follow.
After the Texas legislature passed a renewable energy requirement, utilities
and wind companies invested $1 billion in 2001 to build 912 megawatts of
new wind power projects. The results?
According to a report published by
the SEED Coalition and Public Citizenís Texas office, The completed
plants created 2,500 quality jobs with a payroll of $75 million, will deliver
$13.3 million in tax revenue for schools and counties and pay landowners
$2.5 million in royalty income in 2002 alone.
The multiplier effect of this
new investment activity will stimulate another 2,900 indirect jobs in Texas.
Wind power is bringing relief to rural Texas and creating jobs statewide.
Wind generators under construction at Combine Hills Turbine Ranch, Oregon
Wind power also is providing a nice kick to the local economy
of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, according to Mayor Lewis Keys. The new 41 megawatt
Combine Hills Turbine Ranch wind farm in his district will provide wind
power for area residents, who also will benefit from the infusion of construction
dollars. Having been a farmer of wheat, barley and peas for 35 years,
it was hard to imagine the surrounding land being used for anything other
than farming, but now I can see the diversity of its uses, Keys said.
Leroy Ratzlaff, a third-generation landowner and farmer in Hyde County,
South Dakota, agrees. Ratzlaff and his family used a homemade wind generator
in the 1930s before rural electrification reached their farm. In 2003, he
leased his land to a wind developer that installed seven wind turbines,
providing a much-needed economic boost. Itís not as risky as farming,
Because much of the nationís wind energy potential
is found in rural areas, wind energy offers an unprecedented opportunity
for rural economic development. Wind energy can offer:
Corn Growers Support Wind Energy
April of 2003, the American Corn Growers Foundation commissioned
a nationwide, random and scientific survey of more than 500 corn
farmers in the 14 states representing nearly 90 percent of the
nation's corn production. The poll found that 93.3 percent of
the nation's corn producers support wind energy; 88.8 percent
want farmers, industry and public institutions to promote wind
power as an alternative energy source; and 87.5 percent want utility
companies to accept electricity from wind turbines in their power
This article was prepared with information provided
by the U.S. Department of Energy, Wind Powering America program.
to Rural Landowners
Rural landowners who lease their land to wind developers typically receive
about 2-4 percent of the gross annual turbine revenue $2,000
to $4,000 for each turbine which can help compensate for a downturn
in commodity prices. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that
typical farmers or ranchers with good wind resources could increase
the economic yield of their land by 30-100 percent. Wind turbines have
a small footprint and do not occupy much land, so farming and ranching
operations can continue. Itís almost like renting out my farm
and still having it, Ratzlaff said. And the cows donít seem
to mind a bit.
Increased Local Tax Base
Wind power projects bring new tax revenue to rural communities. Payments
generally range from 1-3 percent of the projectís value. At 1 percent,
property tax payments would provide approximately $10,000 for each megawatt
for rural communities each year. These revenues can be used to build
new schools, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
Here are some examples of states that are increasing their tax revenue
because of wind energy projects:
County, Texas, added $4.6 million to its property tax revenue in
In Iowa, 250 megawatts of wind development provide $2 million per
year in property tax revenues for local communities.
A 20 megawatt wind farm in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, will result
in annual property tax payments of $200,000 to the county, or 50
percent of its annual budget.
The development in Hyde County, South Dakota, will result in $250,000
for the county.
Wind power projects create new jobs in rural communities in manufacturing,
transportation and construction of projects. Roads must be built. Towers
must be erected. Once the projects are complete, jobs are created in
the operation and maintenance of the projects. The wind power plant
in Lake Benton, Minnesota, is now the second largest employer in town,
after the school district. In Iowa, construction provided 200 six-month
construction jobs and 40 permanent maintenance and operations jobs at
an average wage of $16 per hour. The U.S. wind industry currently contributes
to the economies of 46 states. And according to a study by the New York
State Energy Research and Development Authority, wind energy produces
27 percent more jobs per kilowatt-hour than coal plants and 66 percent
more jobs than natural gas plants.
to the Communities
Not only do rural communities benefit directly from wind power projects,
but they also benefit indirectly. When new jobs and additional farming
income are created, the paychecks are spent in local stores and restaurants,
boosting the local economy and creating additional jobs. Of course,
wind energy offers many benefits beyond rural economic development.
Wind energy is ďhomegrownĒ energy that can extend non-renewable energy
sources, helping to secure our energy future, reduce energy costs and
reduce our dependence on foreign energy. Wind power produces no air
or water emissions, which improves the health of our environment. But
perhaps the greatest benefit of all is the hope that wind energy projects
can offer to rural Americans who wish to remain on their family farms
and make a living from them. We never dreamed this would happen, Ratzlaff said about the turbines on his land. Itís going to make for a merry Christmas!
More about Wind and Economic Development in Your Rural Community
This organization partners with the Institute for Agriculture
and Trade Policy to promote wind education and outreach. The organizationís
Web site at www.windustry.org
features a section called Wind Farmers Network of America. If
you donít have Internet access, write to Windustry, 2105 First
Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404; or call 800-946-3640.
Powering America Program
Wind Powering America Program is committed to dramatically increasing
the use of wind energy in the United States. Visit the Wind Powering
America Web site at: http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/
to find state wind maps, small wind consumer's guides, wind workshops
that are going on in your area, and much more.
Wind Energy Association
AWEA offers a fact sheet entitled ďWind Energy for Your Farm or
Rural Land.Ē It is available online at http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets/WindyLandownersFS.pdf.
You can also access a list of developers at http://web.memberclicks.com/mc/page.do?orgId=awea.
Write to The American Wind Energy Association at 122 C Street
NW, Suite 380, Washington, DC 20001; or call 202-383-2500.
Corn Growers Foundation
Learn more about the foundationís Wealth
from the Wind program at
Write to the foundation at P.O. Box 18157,
Washington, DC 20036; or call 202-835-0330.
Energy Resource Atlas
To find out whether you have a strong wind resource in your area,
http://rredc.nrel.gov/wind/pubs/atlas/. Information supplied
by the U.S. Department of Energyís Wind Powering America aided
in the preparation of this article. For more information, please