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.

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