Powhatan Carter’s Grandfather settled on the wind-swept prairie outside of Fort Sumner, NM in 1937 with the intention of raising cattle. Twelve years after this, Pow was born. To this day he runs the same cattle business as his grandfather.
Sadly though, it isn’t all rosy for Pow. After two years of drought, the land is so dry that even the most durable grass in the prairie is dying. This has resulted in very little grazing land remaining for his cattle. The cost of alternative feed is sky high and thus he has to sell off half of his cattle herd, which is 450 strong, many months before he normally would, this in turn has resulted in a poorer price for them. Pretty soon he will have to sell off more.
Rebuilding this herd and restoring the dead turf will take many years of hard labour, and this is further adding to the stress of ensuring that his grandfather’s homestead remains looking fantastic.
As Carter claims, many of the people in the area are land rich, but are cash poor. This means that it is incredibly difficult to keep hold of the land. He claims that an outside boost makes all of the difference to the running of the area. Thankfully though, he does get a boost, and this comes from $35,000 a year for electricity produced by seven wind turbines on the edge of his pasture lands.
The wind is incredibly high in this area, and thus no matter the weather, the turbines slowly turns, generating power. This means that a number of checks through the mail, giving Carter the ability to stay in the area that he has always lived in.
Turbines such as this one provide economic stability for thousands of farmers around the country. Over half the country is experiencing the worst drought in half a century, and this has resulted in many crops being destroyed, including corn, wheat and grasslands. In turn this is leading many cattle owners struggling to feed and water their herds. The wind turbines are providing the income that is keeping these ranches alive. Cater says it truly is a blessing for farmers around the nation.
Windmills have formed a part of the landscape of the American West for over a century. They have managed to harness the power of the wind that blows freely on the plains to help pump water from wells, or even generate electricity for homes long before the power lines reached them.
These modern wind turbines are much grander however. They have generators the size of a tractor attached to them, and sit perched atop a steel tower which can reach dizzying heights of up to 200 feet. This of course means that they are able to attract much more wind. The power that is produced by these wind turbines enters the commercial electric grid. It is only recently that wind turbines have begun to make a significant impact on the nation’s energy supply, but they really have made a massive impact.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, around 4% of the nation’s electricity was provided by wind turbines during the first four months of the year. By 2030, the US Energy Departments hops that wind will be producing 20% of the country’s electricity. This is as much as nuclear power plants generate right now
Over 98% of the country’s wind turbines are located on farms, ranches and other private land. Each year, the industry dishes out more than $400 million to owners of this property, as well as local tax groups, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
This income has of course contributed towards the ever diverse revenue stream that the nation’s farmers are enjoying. One wheat and silage farmer, Joe Jury, is pleased that the money is there each and every year, without fail. He claims it helps make up for when there is a shortfall in crop income for a particular year. He receives $18,000 each year due to nine small wind turbines placed on his land. He claims that this helps to cover various costs associated with the land. “It’s just additional income that helps you when things are short.”
In Amarillo, Texas, a number of wind turbines are going up on Perry Kirkland’s farm. He states that the income that these wind turbines are going to generate are going to be welcome revenue, especially as he has been hit incredibly hard in the past two years due to the drought that has been in existence.
Farmers and Ranchers don’t claim or expect to have an easy time living off their land. The wind turbines provide a bit of a financial cushion to enable them to continue the life that they love. Class 4 Winds and Renewables claims that this isn’t a lifesaver, instead it is providing a way for ranchers and farmers to continue to do what they love to do. They claim that this is just one way for people to cling onto their identify.
“They Consider themselves caretakers of the land. But, when nature is destroying it, it kind of takes their feet out from under them’. They claim that the majority of the money that is being generated by these turbines is to help carry out vital repairs on the land, as well as feeding the cattle.
It isn’t just the farmers and ranchers being hit hard by the drought however. Everything that relies on agriculture is going through a similar tough period. This includes tractor dealers, grain brokers, lumberyards and hardware stores. Everything in rural America has become affected by this, and essentially switched to ‘survival mode’ in an effort to stay afloat.
The director of the Texas Wind Energy Institute at Texas Tech has indicated that enrolments are rising. There are now over 100 students enrolled on their bachelors degree program in wind energy. These graduates are people who don’t see a bright future for farms, and are instead looking to find work on wind turbines, a growth industry on these prairies.
Greg Wortham, the mayor of Sweetwater, Texas claims that Wind Energy has enabled younger people to stay in the area. When it looked bleak for the farming industry, many people upped sticks and left the area. However, the growth of wind energy in the area has resulted in well-paid jobs, which in turn is keeping many younger people in the area.
Wind Turbines and the associated transmission lines have contributed towards a boost in the tax base in the rural communities that have been struggling for many decades. In just a decade of wind development, the property tax base has increased from $156 million to more than $500 million. This has resulted in a 10% reduction in taxes, but at the same time revenues have increased by 12%. This is a massive amount for such a small area.
Wind Turbines seem to favour those which have large land with strong winds. For the most part however, wind turbines aren’t making people rich. Instead, they are keeping money flowing into the area during particularly tough times. They are making the difference between somebody wanting to continue their way of life that they enjoy, or simply going to find something else to do. This isn’t set to change anytime soon.