What County Commissioners Should Consider When Making Decisions About Wind Energy

As county commissioners review conditional use permit applications for wind projects throughout the State, there are key elements commissioners should consider when making decisions affecting a 25-30 year span.  A strong review of the economic impact to the counties, school districts, landowners and personal property rights require strong consideration.

Wind energy developments bring new dollars to communities, helping to keep main streets alive and landowners on their farms.  A typical 300-megawatt wind farm will cost $4-500 million and will bring about $1.4 million to the county annually.  These projects don’t come along all that often.  $1.4 million in new dollars will help keep schools vibrant and if schools are open, main streets are stronger.  Estimated dollars coming to school districts within a county are nearly $500,000.  Emergency services such as ambulance and fire will benefit also with new dollars, enhancing the safety of county residents.

Landowners who have signed lease agreements are given new opportunities to keep the family farm/ranch in the family.  For some, this allows a new generation of family members to stay on the farm and diversify the existing operation, to expand or keep the operation viable during tough economic times.

Opponents of this new economic opportunity—wind development, argue “I don’t want to look at them.”  Really?  One of the founding principles of our country is individual property rights.  A landowner has the right to sign a lease and do as she pleases with her land.  As one landowner recently said on KFRY radio, “Your property rights begin when you are looking inside your fence and your property rights end when you are looking outside your fence line.”  The argument of “I don’t want to look at them,” should concern all citizens, because it embraces the notion that your neighbor gets to dictate what you can or cannot do on the property you own.  If commissioners cave to this argument, neighbors will have a voice on what crop you plant, the color of the roof on your house and the type of cattle you raise … some people prefer herefords to black angus.

County commissioners are faced with many difficult decisions.  Deciding what’s best for the county for the next 25 years is a legacy vote when it includes 25 million dollars back to the county, of which $12,500,000 will go to local school districts.  Isn’t that the best, long-term policy for the well-being of their residents?