Wind energy development is supplementing farm incomes in Iowa, and may be one factor driving up property values in rural Michigan, according to separate reports this week in Mother Jones magazine and on Midwest Energy News.
Mother Jones tells the story of an Iowa farm family that counted on two wind turbines to tide them over after corn prices fell five years ago. And agricultural land in Michigan, particularly in areas that have seen significant wind energy development, is the only type of property that has gained value since 2008, according to a Midwest Energy News summary of a Center for Michigan study.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Liesl Eichler Clark, president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council. “This very starkly shows what we’ve been trying to say about wind’s impact.”
“Wind farms have caught on throughout Iowa, not only bringing a much-needed boost to farmers, but also generating county tax revenue to fund school and road improvements and adding new jobs,” writes MoJo correspondent Maddie Oatman. “Landowners reap at least US$10 million a year leasing their land to turbines. Nationwide, they may earn as much as $900 million a year by 2030,” according to analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“Farmers cannot farm anything legally on that small amount of land and get that kind of return,” Chris Kunkle, western policy manager at Wind on the Wires, told Oatman.
In Michigan, a state map shows the counties where wind generation overlaps with some of the biggest jumps in property values. The Center for Michigan attributed the increases to higher commodity prices. But Eichler Clark’s colleague at Lansing-based 5 Lakes Energy, Stanley “Skip” Pruss, called for more analysis of wind development’s contribution to property values, noting that the four counties with the most wind turbines in 2014-15 received $45 million in additional county revenue.
“These are agricultural counties,” he told MWEN. “That’s a huge amount of money that went to operating budgets, townships, counties, police, and fire.”
Nancy Heck, treasurer and assessor for Winsor Township in wind-intensive Huron County, said higher commodity prices generate income that farmers can invest back into their properties. But she acknowledged that land lease payments from wind turbines might do the same.
“Probably,” she said. “But they’re not making that much money off of windmills, they’re making more money off of commodities.”