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Turbines Fit Well on Farm Land

by Stewart Truelsen, Guest Comment
Capital Press, August 19, 2005

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind."
-- Bob Dylan, 1962

Bob Dylan wasn't really singing about wind energy back in 1962. America didn't even know it had an energy problem back when Dylan penned "Blowin' in the Wind."

Today, there's little doubt about there being an energy problem and part of the answer is blowing in the wind. As with ethanol and biodiesel, wind power is a farm-based, renewable source of energy.

According to Christine Real de Azua, spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association, "Most wind power development has been happening on agricultural land and it has a great potential for future development."

In Denmark, a country with a large percentage of agricultural land, wind power is now providing 20 percent of the electricity. A modest goal for the United States is for wind power to provide at least 6 percent of the electricity by 2020.

A good location for a wind farm is flat or gently rolling land with steady winds starting at about 13 mph. The industry is now installing taller towers to take advantage of higher winds aloft. Ideally, the land should be close to transmission lines and to a market.

One plan for central Illinois farm country calls for 243 wind turbines scattered over 50 square miles in McLean County. The plan by Zilkha Renewable Energy of Houston has an estimated cost of $500 million and a completion date of 2006.

It will become the largest wind farm in the country by producing 400 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power 120,000 homes in the Chicago area.

Another big project is Judith Gap Wind Farm in Montana. Construction began in the spring on 90 turbines that will provide a portion of the electricity needs of 300,000 Montana customers of NorthWestern Energy.

In southwestern Minnesota, the 100-megawatt Trimont Area Wind Farm will be in operation by this winter.

Started by a group of farmers and other landowners and built by PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., it will be the largest community wind project in the nation.

Jan Johnson, spokesperson for PPM Energy, said, "We have many happy communities where wind farms are located."

That's because wind farms bring economic development to rural America and provide additional income to farmers.

On average, a farm owner can receive $2,000 to $4,000 a year from a single wind turbine as a lease payment or royalty. There is no buffer zone involved. Crops can be grown right up to the turbine and livestock can graze there.

In addition to the site requirements and other prerequisites, wind farms depend on state and federal policies that encourage their development.

New energy legislation that passed this summer extends the federal Production Tax Credit. It is applied to electricity generated by wind turbines over the first 10 years of a project.

In the Midwest, where this summer's heat wave reduced the yield of corn and soybean crops, the wind just keeps blowing. It's a clean, renewable form of energy and a very good crop.

Related Pages:
Where Could 1150 aMW Come From to Replace Power Generated by LSR Dams? compiled by
Breaching Dams would Harm Man, Nature by Sen. Larry Craig, in same issue of Capital Press

Stewart Truelsen is a contributing writer to the Focus on Agriculture series by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Turbines Fit Well on Farm Land
Capital Press, August 19, 2005

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