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Corn Growers Excited by Wind Energy's Water and Natural Gas Savings

Corn Growers Excited by Wind Energy's Water and Natural Gas Savings

Date: 11/1/2007

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Dan McGuire, Director of the American Corn Growers Foundation Wealth from the Wind Program (MP3 3.0 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:14.

America's corn producers are enjoying high prices for their commodity, but Nebraska corn grower Dan McGuire says farmers realize just how quickly prices can drop. He says that's one reason corn growers are taking a closer look at wind development.

"Wind energy is a new and renewable cash crop. Electric lines are the farm to market road. Typical crops can be planted right beside wind turbines and farmers have the land for wind farms. They can lease land or be owners in community-based energy development — CBED as it's known — wind projects. And, American Corn Growers nationwide corn farmer surveys shows 90-percent support for wind energy."

But interest among corn growers isn't new. McGuire serves as Director of the American Corn Growers Foundation Wealth from the Wind program. That outreach program's been in place for five years.

"We get wind energy's positive message out to the public. We work closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Wind Powering America program, and they provide the latest technical, economic information on wind. And then we're a member of the American Wind Energy Association; we co-sponsor their wind power conference and trade show every year. We inform other farm and ag and rural groups on key wind energy issues through the American Agricultural Wind Coalition and the Alliance for Rural America."

McGuire says it's simple to understand why wind energy is so important to corn growers across the nation. For one, he says the use of wind energy can save water.

"Unlike conventional thermal power plants, wind energy saves precious water resources for food and energy production — including for ethanol. One single 1.5 megawatt wind turbine today saves about 90-million gallons of water. Wind energy saves water, that's a big deal in Nebraska and western states that are struggling to conserve water."

Again, that's a savings of 90-million gallons of water a year. Generating the same amount of electricity with hydropower would mean the loss of approximately 75-million gallons a year to evaporation. As a result, McGuire says some ethanol plants are already using wind energy for part of their electric load.

But perhaps even more importantly to U.S. farmers, McGuire says wind energy can reduce volatility in natural gas prices.

"USDA reports natural gas prices jumped from $4.01 in 2001 to just under seven-dollars forecast for 2008. Natural gas is the largest cost factor in nitrogen fertilizer and fertilizer is the second largest cost in producing corn. The ag community is becoming aware that wind energy reduces natural gas demand and price pressure. More electricity from wind energy should mean lower fertilizer prices."

According to the American Wind Energy Association, it's estimated that 11,603 MW of wind power will save over half a billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. With the U.S. burning about 13 billion cubic feet per day, the association expected wind power to reduce the use of natural gas for power generation by about five-percent. But if 20-percent of electricity is generated by wind, McGuire says that number is expected to increase to 11 to 12-percent.

This information was last updated on November 01, 2007