Wind turbines' meaning for Oregon ranchers: Hope
Tuesday's edition of the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard carried a nice Associated Press article about how wind power is helping ranchers in eastern Oregon survive, by giving them a source of regular, dependable income which helps to cushion the "bust" years in the notoriously boom-and-bust business of agriculture.
The AP article describes a proposed 504-MW wind farm which would be sited on 61,000 acres and generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of about 125,000 homes.
Explains the article, "In order to pay the costs of producing crops or livestock each year, most landowners take out agricultural loans at the start of the season and pay them back after they’ve sold their crops and stock. The returns on agricultural investments fluctuate depending on the costs of supplies and fuel and the value of commodities when they’re sold." Wind energy leases, by contrast, generally offer fixed payments.
(It's ironic that an energy source often criticized for its variability is, in many respects, just what the doctor ordered for those seeking stability. Since the "fuel" for a wind farm is free, the operator of a wind farm can enter into a long-term fixed-price contract, lasting for 20 years or more, for the sale of the electricity, helping to insulate both a utility and its customers from the volatility of fuel prices. At the same time, wind farm operators can also offer farmers, ranchers, and other landowners dependable income from the rental of a small portion--typically 2-5 percent--of their land.)
Adding that "many farmers and ranchers across eastern Oregon" have benefited in recent years from hosting turbines on their property, the article cites one rancher as saying that payments of $5,000 to $7,000 per year are normal for larger turbines.
(For the story of one rancher in Wyoming who has found wind power to be a reliable source of income, see this video.)
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