The recent boom in renewable energy use is a great sign for humanity’s future. But the benefits of reducing carbon emissions and switching to sustainable energy are expected over the long term. In the short term there are more immediate benefits for farmers and landowners across the country.
Wind and solar energy, in particular, are changing the rural landscape of America in the biggest way since the government gave land to homesteaders a century and a half ago.
The key to this rapid shift is land leasing. Energy companies have been encouraged to lease land for their renewable energy projects. Farmers, meanwhile, have struggled with record-low commodity prices. To add to this, states are now willing to subsidize such developments. New York state’s Cuomo administration has promised to help get the half of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030.
Companies are willing to pay handsomely for each acre of land used in a new project. Some farmers have leased out their land for the construction of wind turbines. These turbines are a long-term commitment for the landowners considering how long they take to build and how much space they take. It could take two to six months just to get a 10 MW to 50 MW wind turbine constructed. That includes the setup, construction, testing and getting the MV cable installed between the turbine and the grid so that the power can be transmitted.
But farmers can expect to earn between $7,000 to $10,000 per turbine installed on their land. Ed Woolsey, a farmer in Iowa, told Bloomberg he earns enough from his land through wind turbines to be able to retire from farming.
There is also a solar farm in sunny parts of the country. Companies and developers are willing to pay landowners just to see if the land is suitable for a solar farm. If they decide to start construction, the landowner gets a regular payment per acre for the contract.
This boom has already had a positive effect on the rural landscape. Sixty percent of wind farms are now in poor rural districts and this investment has managed to double land prices in these areas.
Unlike the land rush for the fracking boom, this trend is less controversial. It’s healthy for the environment as more homes can get their power from sustainable sources. Struggling farmers can lease out their land to generate income. The energy companies get tax incentives from the government and flexible access to land. Meanwhile all this new, efficient power will push down energy prices for people across the country.
The renewable energy boom is a quintessential win-win.