September 7, 2017 Read More →

Wind Boom in Rural America Defies Party Lines

Wall Street Journal:

Hundreds of wind turbines ring Fowler, their white towers rising for miles amid the golden-tipped cornfields and leafy soybean plants blanketing much of Benton County, pop. 8,650. More than half of the county’s 560 turbines are operated by BP, which has three wind farms here.

Wind developers have made $17 million in payments to the county and have spent $33 million on roads, a boon for an economically struggling community that about a decade earlier considered hosting a waste dump to generate jobs and government revenue.

The wind farms took hundreds of construction workers to build, and created 110 permanent jobs, mostly wind technicians—in charge of servicing and maintaining wind turbines—who, according to federal data, earn about $51,500 a year in Indiana.

“Benton County didn’t see the recession until 2011,” said the county commission’s president, Bryan Berry, who has three turbines on his farmland. “The wind industry helped keep things open.”

As wind becomes a bigger part of the U.S. electricity mix, it is becoming an economic force in rural communities such as Fowler, a development that is changing the political conversation around renewable energy in many parts of the U.S.

Wind supplied just over 6% of the country’s electricity last year, and the industry employed close to 102,000 people—nearly double the number working in coal mining, according to federal data.

President Donald Trump campaigned in part on reviving the U.S. coal industry, and has been critical of renewable-energy subsidies. But heavily Republican states such as Indiana, Iowa, Texas and Wyoming have embraced wind for the work and revenue it brings.

More: ($) Wind Power Wins Converts in Rural U.S.

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