Wind power provides economic benefits

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11297506265041.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Mendota Hills wind farm, fall 2004’);

Neither wind farms nor subdivisions can be made invisible. For those who prefer an unimpeded view of a natural landscape, both can be seen as a visual blight. While the human spirit deserves to be refreshed by natural panoramas, with this country’s unrestrained quest for economic growth, sweeping views of the landscape will become increasingly scarce.

While subdivisions bring some economic benefits to a community, numerous studies reveal they impose far greater costs on neighboring taxpayers for public services including roads, schools, policing and others. Extending urban sprawl, they add to energy demand, increase our dependence on imported oil and undercut the economic strength of existing urban areas.

In contrast, wind farms bring economic benefits to a community by increasing the local tax base to help finance schools, roads and other social services while adding desperately needed farm income.

Wind farms bring other benefits as well. Every unit of energy produced by wind lessens our dependence on coal, oil and natural gas and helps protect air quality and the earth’s climate. Wind power ameliorates the economic, environmental and security impacts of our present energy policies and practices, which are devastating to human welfare and the planet.

On average, heating bills for natural gas are expected to jump 50 percent or more this winter. The substantial increase in producing electricity from natural gas combined with dwindling new discoveries set the stage for the dramatic rise in prices. Short-term prospects for increasing supplies are bleak. The recent Gulf hurricanes added to an already tight supply. While importing liquefied natural gas will help increase supplies over the longer term, it will be a costly source of energy.

This past summer, fuel costs to generate electricity from natural gas were $0.056 per kWh. As gas prices rise, the cost of producing electricity from it rises proportionately. New wind projects with 10- to 20-year contracts are coming in at $0.03 per kWh or less. With such favorable cost projections, wind power is one of the few economic bright spots in our energy future. In fact, a major economic advantage of wind farms is the long-term price stability they provide.

High natural gas prices and fuel prices combined with poor yields from this summer’s drought are having a dramatic impact on farm income. With corn prices around $1.50 per bushel and yields as low as 40 to 80 bushels per acre in this area, farm income will fall far short of the cost of planting and harvesting a crop. With 90 percent of the cost of nitrogen fertilizer based on the price of natural gas alone, farmers face dismal economic prospects next year as well.

The recently approved Governor’s plan for efficiency and renewable energy calls for a dramatic increase in wind-generated electricity. After efficiency, it is one of our best hopes to minimize dramatic swings in electrical prices. If wind energy is to serve our economic and environmental interests, communities must welcome them.

Our overly energy-dependent lifestyle cannot be sustained. We need energy efficiency and renewable energy sources far more than we need more urban sprawl.

From the Oct. 19-25, 2005

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!