The US wind energy industry is currently paying $222 million annually to rural landowners whose land supports wind farms, in turn supporting some of the most economically distressed communities in the US.
This is according to new data released this week by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in advance of its 2015 US Wind Industry Annual Market Report, which is due for release in Denver, Colorado, on April 12. Further, $156 million of that total $222 million goes directly to landowners in counties with below average incomes.
“The rapid growth of wind energy largely benefits rural communities, including some of the most economically distressed parts of the US,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Wind farms pay $222 million dollars a year to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and other rural landowners, helping them to make ends meet, send their kids to college, or even keep that 100-year old ranch in the family. By continuing to grow this locally-made, drought-resistant cash crop, wind power can unleash even greater economic and water-saving benefits for these communities.”
Figures published by the AWEA overwhelmingly show that wind farms are operating in rural areas throughout the US, with around 70% of rural wind farms in the US located in low-income counties. Wind farms are also paying taxes that contribute to new revenue in local communities, benefiting schools, county and local services, libraries, hospitals, and public safety facilities. Oklahoma wind farms, for example, are paying over $1 billion in property taxes to counties and local schools over their lifespan. In Ohio, a single wind farm is the largest taxpayer in one county, adding over $400,000 a year in new revenue to the local school, and even helping to supply over 900 new computers.
Landowners in six states are currently receiving over $10 million dollars a year in lease payments, with Texas ranked number one, followed by Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Kansas. Landowners in 26 additional different states are receiving over $1 million. In the end, the share of wind development in rural areas represents more than $101 billion in wind farm investment.
“The wind farm allowed us to be able to keep our family farm,” said Jason Wilson from Calhan, Colorado. “We had come to a point where it no longer made financial sense to keep the property even with its vast sentimental value. The wind farm balanced the financial viability with the sentimental value, allowing the family farm to continue to be passed on to the next generation.”
“To me wind energy means that this farm land will pretty much stay in our hands,” said Keith Mueggenborg, Oklahoma landowner.