Counting wind power’s rural economic benefits

Wind farm has transformed rural Sherman County, OR, according to a story in today’s New York Times by Lee van der Voo:

– County residents receive a payment of $590 a year for each household from the county’s tax revenues on its burgeoning wind turbines, in a program similar to Alaska’s annual rebates on oil pipeline revenues.

– The wind farm plants have brought in $17.5 million in taxes, fees and assessments over the past nine years to the county, which has only 1,735 residents. Benefits have flowed to schools and public works, including a new library.

– The wind energy industry is the county’s largest employer.

The story includes some memorable quotes underlining the economic impact of wind power:

Judge Gary Thompson of Sherman County Court: "Wind is the only thing that is going to save rural Oregon, especially since all the timber is gone and the sawmills and all that are closing down. I think what [wind power] is is a breath of fresh air."

Ivan Ritchie, Superintendent of the Sherman County School District: "Right now, when many districts around the state are gutting everything, we don’t have to."

Kathy Neihart, owner of a local restaurant and bar: "It’s been wonderful. It’s just a fabulous, happy pile of money." Sherman County is not alone.

By Tom Gray,