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Wind Farm Income Saved the Family Farm

“The more than $100 billion that companies have invested in wind power in low-income counties—where about 70 percent of wind farms are located—has helped double assessed land values in some of the poorest parts of rural America.”

Over 99% of the 2.1 million farms are family-owned and operated. A large portion now hosts wind turbines.

Michigan Wind Farms
Scene of a Michigan Thumb Wind Farm

Wind Energy is a Stable Moneymaker for Farmers

A recent report by Bloomberg Businessweek, noted that “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.”

For some farmers, turbines spin-off six-figure incomes that have allowed them to retire from farming altogether. However, this windfall is highly dependent on wind conditions,  location, local zoning, setback requirements, and a bit of luck. In Huron County Michigan, turbine projects and placement has pitted neighbor vs. neighbor, and nasty exchanges in the township halls have ensued. While each lease is confidential, Bloomberg noted that landowners who sign lease agreements with wind companies typically get wind farm incomes between $7,000 and $10,000 per turbine each year.

“Before, I raised corn and soybeans and cattle. Now I don’t. I’m a wind farmer.”

In an analysis of the article by Tina Casey, she noted, “The full impact of new wind turbines on local communities is a bit more mixed than the article represents, but it does underscore how the wind industry is playing a critical role in rural economic development — without the high risks and impacts of fossil fuel extraction.” Wind farm income is now an economic reality and can lead to more stability in family farms.

In addition, since 2012, agricultural commodity prices rates have steadily declined due to strong supply and weak demand. Wind power adds a significant economic buffer to agricultural price fluctuations due to weather events or policy changes such as tariffs.

Moratorium Affected Wind Development

Wind Farm Income

In 2015 , with the self-imposed wind moratorium all but finished in Huron County Michigan. Several wind projects were slated to start up in the Upper Thumb that fall. Renewable Energy Systems Americas began construction on 47 wind turbines in Dwight, Bloomfield, and Lincoln townships, while Huron Township started with 25. Local farmers expected wind farm income to grow that year

The project, entitled the Deerfield Wind Energy project, provided up to 200 jobs during the peak of construction and up to six permanent jobs once construction is completed. Currently, more than 215 local landowners are participating in Deerfield Wind Energy

The 72 turbines generate 150 megawatts enough to power 50,000 to 60,000 homes. Cadillac-based Wolverine Power Cooperative is the power purchaser.

In a new trend to appease landowners, RES Americas told county officials in 2015 that every landowner within 2,100 feet of a turbine would receive royalty payments. Even those with or without turbines.

Deerfield Wind Energy reached commercial operation in 2016.

Sources Consulted

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Michael Hardy

Mike Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. It started in 2009 as a fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

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