By Lu Nelsen, policy associate, Center for Rural Affairs
In 2019, the U.S. reached a landmark in its wind energy capacity when 100 gigawatts — or enough to provide electricity for about 32 million homes — were produced, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association.
Reaching that milestone came after significant expansion. Wind energy made up about 30 percent of all new utility-scale generating capacity from 2008 to 2019, making it the top source of renewable electricity in the country.
Besides providing clean and renewable electricity to consumers, wind development has delivered a range of benefits to communities across the country, especially in rural areas where most projects are located. Projects generated new tax revenue, with an estimated $912 million paid to local and state entities. This revenue was helpful for rural counties, where it offered relief for local taxpayers while funding essential services.
Additionally, landowners who hosted turbines received payments of $706 million annually, which provided farm and ranch families with certainty in the face of volatile agriculture markets.
The industry was also an economic driver in terms of job creation, with about 120,000 people employed by the industry in 2019. Despite substantial growth, there are still real challenges to fully capturing wind energy’s potential. COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains and slowed the development of new projects, and the siting of wind projects can often be hindered by overly restrictive regulations.
To fully capture the benefits of wind energy, it’s key that developers work with communities and landowners to identify best practices and mitigate impacts. Even in the face of these challenges, the industry is on track to continue creating new economic opportunities for rural America.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.