Wind energy powers rural America

U.S. wind power drives unmatched economic development into rural America. Because of extra income from wind projects, family farmers and ranchers can stay on their land, small-town schools districts can offer their students top-notch educations and local taxes stay low.

“Wind energy, the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., is transforming low-income rural areas in ways not seen since the federal government gave land to homesteaders 150 years ago,” Nebraska’s Omaha World-Herald recently reported.

Every year, farmers and ranchers who host wind turbines are paid $245 million in lease payments. That income can make the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and having to sell off the family farm. This steady revenue helps them when commodity prices fluctuate or bad weather hurts the harvest. It’s a new drought-proof cash crop.

Local schools are often among the largest wind farm beneficiaries. Wind projects substantially expand local tax bases, with schools reaping the rewards. For example, researchers from Oklahoma State University found wind farms in the Sooner State will pay schools over $1 billion during their lifetimes. This means educators can buy new computers, build athletic fields and offer college-level courses in places where they previously didn’t have the resources to offer these opportunities.

Over 99 percent of operating wind energy capacity is in rural areas. That means these towns see a huge portion of the $158 billion and counting of private investment the U.S. wind industry has pumped into America’s economy. This money goes right where it’s needed most, since 71 percent of wind farms are built in low-income counties.