Positive Impacts of Wind Energy Developments

Wind energy continues to show strong growth in North Dakota. Recently, five projects have been announced in Burke, Logan/Emmons, Dickey, Adams and Williams’s counties, totaling 1,000 megawatts in various stages of the permitting process. Pending the final Public Service Commission approval process, these counties will begin to see new sources of tax benefits once the projects are on-line and operational.

In addition to the landowner payments, the most important payments lie with the individual counties and the county school districts.  As an example, a 300 megawatt wind farm generates over a million dollars annually in new tax revenue for a county. The average life of a wind farm is 25 -30 years. When county commissioners approve a project, they are making decisions that impact the financial wealth of a county for decades. While these decisions can be difficult, county commissioners need to look at what’s best for the county for the long-term.

Wind energy brings new financial benefits to schools districts as well. Using the same scenario of a 300 megawatt wind farm, a school district will see annual payments of approximately $460,000. For many rural schools across the state, every principal will tell you, that’s a welcome windfall. In some cases, there are two or three schools that may have to split the money depending on the location of the project, but even if one school sees an annual payment of $230,000 for 25-30 years, that’s significant, as many of the rural schools are experiencing declining enrollments.  These new dollars will provide security, longevity and additional educational opportunities. Many North Dakotan’s believe as long as the school is alive, the community is alive.

The benefits of wind farms are not limited to the counties and school districts. Emergency services such as hospitals, ambulance and fire departments also benefit with new tax dollars.   New wind farms bring new jobs. A 300 megawatt wind farm may employ 7-10 people depending on the location and starting wages are $65 -$70,000 with benefits.

Wind energy developments are located in 27 of the 53 counties in North Dakota. There are counties in North Dakota that have seen their census numbers fall by more than 50% over the last 40 years and for a few of these counties, new wind farms developments will bring a buzz of economic impact for the next three decades.

North Dakota citizens, governors, and legislators have struggled to find policies to reverse the decline of rural North Dakota which impacts our tax base, towns, and has forced school consolidations. Wind energy and all of the above energy policy in North Dakota helps to revitalize the towns we cherish, keeping our communities strong and vibrant.