The Economic Impact of Wind Energy in Rural Areas

As many of us travel throughout rural Colorado, we often come across large wind turbine installations.  The environmental benefits of wind energy are well understood but an article in The Denver Post titled “The Benefits of Wind Energy in Colorado” (October 15, 2014) suggests that rural communities enjoy economic benefits as well.  The article states that the wind industry in 2014 paid well over $17 million in property taxes and landowner lease payments, and 90 percent of the state’s wind turbines are in Weld, Logan, Lincoln, and Prowers Counties.

According to 2017 data provided by the American Wind Energy Association, Colorado ranks 10th in the country in installed wind capacity.  Wind provides 17 percent of the state’s electricity capacity. To date, 1913 wind turbines have been built throughout Colorado.  An overwhelming majority of the land lease payments are made to rural farmers and ranchers.  The additional income will often enable families to remain on their farms or ranches.  The property taxes greatly assist rural counties in providing services to their communities. 

There are 7,000 wind energy-related jobs in Colorado.  A Wind Technician earns more than $50,000 and it is the fastest growing job in America.  The Department of Energy states that more Americans work in wind energy than in any other energy source, including coal and natural gas.  Colorado is forecasted to have more than 20,000 wind-related jobs by 2020.

Questions remain about the impact of wind turbines on the physical beauty of rural Colorado as well as harm to bird and bat populations.  It is clearly a development worth watching as the wind industry continues to grow in Colorado.