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Surge in Installed Wind Power Capacity Benefiting Rural America

Surge in Installed Wind Power Capacity Benefiting Rural America

Date: 1/31/2008

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

Audio with Allen Rider, Volunteer Leader of the 25x'25 Steering Committee (MP3 3.2 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:22.

According to a recent announcement from the American Wind Energy Association, installed wind power capacity in the U.S. increased by 45-percent during 2007. That marked the third consecutive year of record-setting growth.

Allen Rider, a volunteer leader of the 25x'25 Steering Committee, says that's good news for Americans. He notes wind energy comes with big benefits like climate stabilization, natural gas savings, jobs, water savings and more. The benefit that's most important? Rider says it really depends on what part of the country you're in. For instance — the water savings is particularly important to some — and is a growing concern for others.

"Water is a valuable commodity. Potable water will become a national challenge for this country in the not too distant future in my opinion. In the West it's a very critical thing right now. But we're seeing it becoming more and more important as we get to the East. For example, the drought in the Southeast, which is affecting those in Georgia and Florida. And so, if we can generate energy without needing to use the water, it's certainly very beneficial and it's positive for everyone involved because you can use those waters for either human consumption or growing food."

Wind power conserves those precious resources because wind farms don't require water for steam or cooling. What's more, the American Wind Energy Association notes wind power generating capacity boosts the economy. In fact, they say it's injected an investment of over nine-billion dollars into the economy. Rider says that's a plus for everyone. For one thing — he says building and establishing a wind farm requires a workforce — as does ongoing management, maintenance and service.

"This is one of the few times that I've seen the opportunity for more jobs, good paying jobs, in rural America. We had a study done by the University of Tennessee for an economical analysis, and they're talking about in the neighborhood of five-million jobs associated with the development and the production of renewable energy. Typically we've been talking about bigger farms, less people, less job opportunity. So as a consequence, this is a big deal in rural America."

In fact, from the rural development standpoint, Rider says this is one of the most exciting things he's seen for the agriculture industry in his entire lifetime.

"For many years, one of the biggest problems in the agricultural and forestry industry is rural development, where people can have jobs and work in rural communities. Renewable energy generation, whether it be wind or one of the other types, does employ people and it provides an opportunity to have a strong, robust economic environment in a rural community, which in the past has not been there. So it can be a real boost for a rural economy, particularly in small farmer communities where there have not been opportunities for people to get jobs and stay in the area."

Of the new power-producing capacity added in the U.S. in 2007, new wind projects account for about 30-percent and will power the equivalent of 1.5-million American households annually. This year, it's anticipated America's wind farms will generate 48-billion kilowatt-hours of wind energy — powering the equivalent of over 4.5-million homes. The growth seen in 2007 is expected to continue — as the American Wind Energy Association estimates new wind capacity installed in 2008 could equal that installed this past year.

This information was last updated on February 05, 2008