Farming the wind

As a native New Yorker and Washington, D.C. transplant, admittedly I haven’t spent much time in rural America. So traveling to wind farms on the Colorado plains this past weekend was truly remarkable for me on a couple of different levels.

On the one hand, the AWEA team spends its days advocating for the continued growth of wind energy. But having the opportunity to see actually see the projects that we champion for is quite a satisfying experience.

However, even more rewarding is meeting the farmers who host the turbines on their property, and learning their stories.

On Saturday and Sunday I visited two family farms with roots stretching back to the late 1940’s. In both instances, fathers were looking forward to passing the businesses on to their sons, who were more than happy to continue the tradition.

Also in both cases, receiving lease payments from the wind farms helped ensure this transition would successfully occur. Having this stable source of income in the face of commodity price fluctuations and year to year variations in temperature and precipitation allowed for better long-term planning while providing a safety net during lean years.

Both families stressed the projects had little if any impact on their day-to-day farming operations, during the construction phase and after completion. The wind farms are able to act in concert with the conventional farms.

I also heard families explain that farmers are the original conservationists. Caring for the land and practicing good stewardship are requirements for hosting a successful farming operation, and both families emphasized having wind turbines on their property fit with this ethic.

Essentially, the decision to host turbines made economic sense while being aligned with a moral compass.

There was so much pride in all that these families have built, spanning generations and over six decades at each site. The beauty and tranquility of the rolling plains was striking, and the sense of the American pioneering spirit was palpable. Knowing that wind power is helping preserve these farms for generations to come was a moving experience that adds purpose to my work, and it was a weekend I won’t soon forget.

Keep an eye on AWEA’s Facebook page in the coming weeks for videos documenting these farmers’ experiences with wind power.

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