Renewable Energy

Wind is the new corn for struggling farmers

Illustration: Simon Abranowicz

Illustration: Simon Abranowicz

NEW YORK CITY, NY — “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. As commodity prices threaten to reach decade lows and farmers struggle to meet debt payments, wind has become the newest cash crop, saving family farms across a wide swath of the heartland.

The money Richard Wilson earns from leasing his land for about 35 turbines run by the Golden West Wind Energy Center outside Colorado Springs has kept him from having to sell off pieces of the 6,000-acre cattle and wheat ranch his family has owned since 1948. ‘We weren’t making enough money to sustain ourselves,’ he says. ‘Now we’re in a position where we can operate our farm for another generation at least.’

For others, turbines spin off six-figure incomes that have allowed them to retire from farming altogether. ‘One turbine has changed my life,’ says Ed Woolsey, a fifth-generation Iowa farmer and a principal with Crosswinds Energy Project, a community collective that manages 10 turbines and sells the power they generate to rural electric cooperatives. ‘Before, I raised corn and soybeans and cattle. Now I don’t. I’m a wind farmer.’ Woolsey leases his farm to others to cultivate. Neither he nor Wilson would disclose how much he earns, but landowners who sign lease agreements with wind companies typically get between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine each year.”

— Jennifer Oldham, Bloomberg Businessweek

link to full article

Tags: ,