Harvesting the Wind

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My husband, a proud Colorado native, has shared with me that one day he will pack his bags, grab his buddies and a cowboy hat and saddle up for a true “City Slicker” adventure on a working Colorado cattle ranch.

While living out his cowboy dream is something that has yet to come to fruition, I can’t help but chuckle, picturing these city boys on their horses attempting to wrangle them some steers on an authentic cattle drive.

However, I must admit, the urge to get in touch with the West is something to which I can relate. Imagine the backdrop of the diverse western landscape — the rugged mountain terrain. The vast plains. Silhouettes of dusty cowboys and majestic wind turbines blending into the scenery as the sun sets on the prairie.

Wind turbines? You’re darned tootin’.

In fact, one Colorado cattle ranch near the Cedar Creek II wind project in Weld County, Col., is featured prominently in American Wind Energy Association’s “Power of Wind” campaign. According to the website the ranch is home to horses, cattle, cowboys, cowgirls and plenty of wind turbines. Twenty-one to be exact. (Cedar Creek II has 123 turbines total.)

For most of us, wind farms bring the promise of clean, homegrown energy to light our homes and fuel our communities. For local farmers and ranchers, they bring an opportunity to take advantage of vast stretches of land to generate additional income.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits of wind energy, rural land owners and their communities receive additional benefits:

* Generating revenue – Wind farms located in rural areas generate energy that can be transmitted to the utility grid. Farmers and ranchers that install wind turbines can also gain income from land leases. Crops can be grown and livestock can graze up to the base of the turbine, so wind farms can be established without disrupting the original income source of a farm or ranch.

  • Local jobs – Wind farms create hundreds of jobs during the construction phase, as well as ongoing operations and maintenance jobs once the wind farm is operational.
  • Tax advantages – Between the federal investment tax credit and grant program and the rules for claiming depreciation on wind turbines, an investment in wind power today translates to real benefits that farmers can apply to the bottom line and balance operating budgets. Tax revenue from wind farms also flow to the schools, town, and county.
  • Green (beyond the crops) – Farms that use wind power in their daily operations are valued by wholesalers who sell their products to discerning consumers who put a premium on sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices.

Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and rural communities and dude ranches alike are ready to harvest the wind and reap the benefits.

Article by Christian Hawley, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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