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Utah State University Study Concludes Wind Power Would Benefit Schools, Landowners in Tooele, Box Elder Counties

Utah State University Study Concludes Wind Power Would Benefit Schools, Landowners in Tooele, Box Elder Counties

Date: 9/29/2006

Location: UT

Contact: Steve Eaton

Phone: 435-797-8640

LOGAN — Strategically placed wind turbines in Tooele and Box Elder counties would not only produce supplemental electricity for those areas, but they could also generate tax dollars that could be used for schools, roads, bridges, parks and other community improvements.

That, in part, is the conclusion of two studies sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and recently completed by researchers at Utah State University. The studies were done by Edwin Stafford and Cathy Hartman, professors in the College of Business at USU. A graduate student, Nikhil Mongha, assisted with the studies. Hartman and Stafford have been doing research on the potential of wind power since 2003.

The reports are available from the U.S. Department of Energy's Web site at http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/publications.asp.

Their conclusions for Tooele County are based on 2005 dollar values and the potential economic impact a $39 million wind park could have on the county. They estimate that property taxes for the first year of the project would be $431,000, of which about $347,000 would go to local schools. Wind developers, not land owners, usually pay such taxes, the study says.

In Box Elder County they estimate that property taxes for the first year of the project would be $377,000, of which about $248,000 would go to local schools.

Stafford said their studies show that landowners would benefit from leasing their land for wind turbines.

"In recent years, farmers and ranchers have found it increasingly difficult to earn a living from traditional crops and cattle, causing them to search for 'off-farm' resources of income," Hartman said. "Wind turbines use only a small footprint of land; farmers and ranchers can continue their agricultural operations."

They also discovered about six percent of the land in Tooele and Box Elder counties is owned by the state. Money earned from leasing public land for wind turbines could contribute to Utah's permanent school endowment fund, the studies say.

Stafford said wind power is an also excellent alternative in Utah, given the fact that other fossil fuel methods of generating electricity require significant water.

"Many rural communities want to preserve their way of life and seek economic opportunities that raise local income levels without some of the environmental changes created by urbanization, such as sprawl and traffic congestion," both studies conclude.

"That is, rural communities prefer to attract industry that offers quality jobs, rather than a large number of lower paying jobs. Our analysis suggests that wind development in Tooele County is attractive, in that regard, as it would create higher-paying construction and technical jobs for local residents."

Stafford said some in the state are reluctant to embrace wind-power development because they fear it would hurt the coal industry. Wind power, however, wouldn't replace coal-fueled electricity but could be used as a supplement, instead of relying on more expensive natural-gas-fired electricity.

Hartman said many don't understand the supplemental role of wind power.

"Some people will say that if the wind doesn't blow, we won't have any electricity," Hartman said. "No one would propose relying on wind power alone to meet the state's electricity needs. Power is supplied from a number of sources and utilities are required to have a surplus on the grid. Wind power could help in extending Utah's coal resources."

Stafford said they set out to analyze the potential economic impact of developing wind power plants and now they want to get out the word about what they learned.

"Our whole mission is to show some of the entrepreneurial possibilities that wind power proposes," he said.

The studies also conclude "if the goal of the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America program for producing 5 percent of the nation's electricity from wind by 2020 is achieved, it will result in $60 billion of capital investment in rural communities, $1.2 billion of new income for rural landowners and 80,000 new jobs for rural industry."

This information was last updated on December 05, 2006