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When Wind Turbines Move to Town – How Do Rural Communities Benefit?

By Anna Luke, American Wind Energy Association
Originally published on Into the Wind

It wasn’t always the case, but nowadays rural places are often among those in greatest need of new economic development. Sadly, the farm belt and Rust Belt have been losing jobs and investment for decades. It will take significant change to raise up rural communities, including welcoming new opportunities like wind. Rural areas already are home to 99 percent of the country’s wind turbines, with more on the way.

Building a wind farm can be a big change for a small town, but a number of benefits come along with those changes, including:

1. Job Creation

Hundreds of construction workers come to town during the build-out, bringing new regulars to the local diner. And full-time employees will have jobs at the wind farm, often a major new town employer. There are now more than 100,000 people working in the wind industry, and wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in America. This is a huge opportunity for young men and women who are looking for good-paying jobs in rural towns.


2. Economic Development

It’s typically pretty rare when a multi-million dollar economic investment comes knocking at the door of a small town. When else does that happen? Maybe when a new superstore wants to open a location near you or a sports team relocates to your area.

3. Increased tax revenue and/or lower taxes for individuals

When April 15 rolls around, how would you like to pay no local taxes? For the town of Sheldon, N.Y., the project generated so much tax revenue that local residents paid no taxes for eight years. Payments went to improving roads, building a basketball court at the town park, and erecting new walls at the town’s cemeteries.


4. Landowner Lease Payments

Rural landowners receive nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in lease payments every year for hosting wind turbines, acting as their new “drought-resistant cash crop.” Many project developers also provide payments to other residents living nearby as a goodwill gesture as well. These payments are significant income streams and can help keep the farm in the family.


5. Funding for Community Projects

The companies that own wind projects want to be good corporate citizens, and often donate to local charities and community projects like parades, restoration efforts, and youth clubs. For example, Enel Green Power North America and TradeWind donated $50,000 to renovate Leonardo Children’s Museum in Enid, Oklahoma, which included improvements like an interactive Power Tower exhibit on oil, natural gas, wind and solar power.

Utility-scale wind projects are a big adjustment for small communities, but they bring significant benefits to town. To hear about some on-the-ground experiences with wind, check out some more YouTube testimonials.

Governor Brownback: Wind power could supply 50 percent of Kansas electricity

Westar-YouTube-Still

Kansas has long been one of America’s wind power leaders; its installed capacity has doubled four times in the last 10 years, and it’s about to double again. In 2015, wind supplied nearly 24 percent of the state’s electricity, and according to Gov. Sam Brownback, that number will exceed 30 percent in 2016.

And reaching 50 percent may not be far off.

Speaking at the American Council on Renewable Energy’s (ACORE) recent Renewable Energy Finance Forum, Gov. Brownback said he believes generating half of Kansas’s electricity using wind is “doable” and he expects it to happen. He noted that Kanas is “going to be aggressively recruiting and working with [wind] companies,” and working on transmission build-out to better enable the wind industry to grow even faster.

“Building a world-class wind industry in Kansas has demonstrated that a market-driven approach to renewable energy can and will benefit industry and consumers alike,” he explained.

Kansas has proven it can quickly develop its wind power potential. In 2011, wind created only eight percent of the state’s electricity, only a third of what it does today.

This growth has been good for the state’s families and businesses, helping them keep more money in their pockets while supporting up to 6,000 well-paying jobs. Through 2050, wind could save consumers over $1.6 billion on their electric bills, on top nearly $4 billion in savings resulting from protection against conventional fuel price fluctuations.

Continuing to develop its wind resources will bring more of these benefits to Kansas. Growing wind energy to supply 50 percent of its electricity will attract over $4.5 billion into the state’s economy, according to ACORE.

“We’ve seen massive investment [in wind] and we want to see that continue to take place and grow even faster,” Brownback said, recognizing how wind power has helped strengthen communities throughout the state.

To see an example of how wind energy is creating a better tomorrow for Kansas’s families and businesses, see this video from Westar Energy.