WASHINGTON, March 23, 2016 - U.S. wind farms now pay $222 million a year to landowners across rural America. This annual “windfall” could soar to $650 million if the Department of Energy is right in forecasting that wind could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030.
An analysis released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) shows that
the $222 million payout includes more than $156 million going to landowners in counties with below average incomes. AWEA adds that along with the extra income for rural America, the switch to wind power from high-water-use thermal power plants already has cut power-sector water use by 73 billion gallons per year, a savings of about 226 gallons of water per year for every American.
The analysis is a first slice of AWEA’s 2015 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, set for release on April 12. It shows that farmers, ranchers and other landowners in six states currently receive over $10 million dollars a year in lease payments, with Texas ranked No. 1, followed by Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois and Kansas. Landowners in 26 other states receive over $1 million dollars each year.
“The rapid growth of wind energy largely benefits rural communities, including some of the most economically distressed parts of the U.S.,” says AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. As more states implement or expand renewable portfolio standards requiring renewable energy, Kiernan says. “States with the best policies will continue to attract the new investment in this locally made, drought-resistant cash crop” – a crop that provided 191 million megawatt-hours of wind generation in 2015, enough electricity for about 17.5 million American homes.
Addressing cost concerns, AWEA’s analysis states that “Consumers in the 10 states with the most renewable energy pay less on their electric bills than the 10 states with the least amount of renewables.”
Wind farms also pay taxes that contribute new revenue to local communities, benefiting schools, county and local services, libraries, hospitals and public safety facilities.
For example, Oklahoma wind farms return over $1 billion dollars in property taxes to counties and local schools over their life, according to an Oklahoma State Chamber report in 2015. In Ohio, a single wind farm is the largest taxpayer in one county and local school officials report the wind farm adds $400,000 a year in new revenue, even helping to supply over 900 new computers for students. See AWEA’s map of payments to landowners, below.
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