They say everything is bigger in Texas and that certainly applies to the giant windmills that have replaced oil derricks in the rural area of Sweetwater, in Nolan County. According to the New York Times, the towers stand 20 stories high and the turbine blades are as long as a football field, and farmers can earn $500 per month for each turbine they allow built on their land. Texas is now the largest producer of wind power in the United States, with $700 million in investment injected into wind projects in January alone, enough to power 100,000 homes.
But even bigger news to those who would like to see some attention paid to America’s rural economic health, is the impact that these wind farms are having on the rural economy. Property values have doubled, teens are staying in the area after graduation to work in the growing number of wind power jobs, and the downtown area is in a state of renewal.
“Since the wind boom began a few years ago, the total value of property here in Nolan County has doubled, and the county judge, Tim Fambrough, estimated it would increase an additional 25 percent this year. County property taxes are going down, home values are going up and the county has extra funds to remodel the courthouse and improve road maintenance…Wind companies are remodeling abandoned buildings, and new stores, hotels and restaurants have opened around this old railroad town.” –Clifford Kraus, New York Times
But this rural revival is in danger of an early death unless Congress extends the federal renewable energy tax credits that have helped fuel wind energy growth. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that over 116,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $19 billion in U.S. investment could be lost in just one year if the tax credits are not renewed by Congress. These jobs are in the areas hardest hit in today’s economy: construction and manufacturing. Concerned citizens should contact their elected representatives to encourage them to act to extend the federal renewable energy tax credits.
Carol Gulyas is a leader in the renewable energy community in Illinois, where she serves as VP of the Board of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. Recently she co-founded EcoAchievers -- a provider of online education for the renewable energy and sustainable living community. She spent 18 years in the direct marketing industry in New York and Chicago, and is currently a teaching librarian at Columbia College Chicago. Carol grew up in a small town in central Indiana, then lived in the Pacific Northwest, Lima, Peru, and New York City. She is inspired by reducing energy consumption through the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green building technology.