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2.1 million farms cover our country’s rural landscapes, and 99 percent of them are family-owned and operated. And now, a growing number of them host wind turbines. Increasingly, the extra income from wind projects helps keep these farms in the family and the family on the farm, even in uncertain times. 

Fluctuating crop prices affect farmer’s livelihoods 

Weather, supply, demand, and policy can all affect crop prices. A change in just one of these aspects can increase volatility or influence long-term trends.  

Over the past 20 years, agricultural commodity prices have hit both highs and lows. But since 2012, rates have steadily declined due to strong supply and weak demand. Beyond this, more short-term fluctuations due to weather or policy changes add extra layers of uncertainty to a farming family’s income.  

This June alone, the total value of the U.S. corn, soybean and wheat crops dropped 10 percent, or roughly $13 billion. Soybean prices have fallen around 18 percent, heading to their lowest point in nearly a decade. A University of Illinois analysis found that to make a profit on soybeans, farmers must make around $10.05 a bushel for the 2018 harvest. Currently, farmers are getting $8.40. That’s a troubling gap.

Though crop prices have dropped over time, production costs have not, creating tightening profit margins. Volatile commodity prices affect a farmer’s bottom line, putting them at risk for significant debt or even bankruptcy.

Trade disputes can cut into farm profits

After the U.S. announced tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese products this month, China responded with taxes of their own, primarily on agricultural products like pork and soybeans. These are the kinds of goods made by family farmers in America’s heartland.

In 2017, Texas farmers sent $42 billion worth of goods to China. Castro County, in the center of the Texas Panhandle, is a top agricultural producer in the state. Its economy centers on dairies, corn and cotton. Analysis from Moody’s Analytics shows that U.S. tariffs on China could negatively affect nearly 25 percent of Castro County’s GDP.

Wind turbines are a stable income source in an uncertain time

Fortunately, many farmers in Castro County have a stable cash-crop that is policy and drought resistant. Castro County is ranked sixth in the nation for most megawatts of installed wind capacity and hosts 282 turbines.

Landowners who host one or more of these turbines on their property receive yearly lease payments from wind companies, offering a new source of stable revenue. This passive income source can help keep farms afloat in times like these.

In 2017 alone, Texas landowners received more than $60 million in lease payments. Across the country, wind projects paid farmers and ranchers an estimated $267 million.

Turbine income allows landowners to invest in farm equipment improvements

Wind turbines can not only help landowners stay afloat, but also can increase certainty about the future. A 2014 study found that farmers with turbines on their land have invested twice as much in their operations over the past five years as farmers without them. Farmers with turbines are also more likely to believe that their land will stay in their family once they retire.

Dr. Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy also took a look at this question in a paper entitled, “Farming the wind: The impacts of wind energy on farming.” Some of her key findings include:

John Dudley, a Texas farmer said, “It will not change how we operate, it will not change anything about our lives. But it will be an additional income stream that I suspect will be very handy. It will allow the family to have the ranch for a long time.”

Wind power adds a significant economic boost to agricultural America, becoming even more important during uncertain times like these.

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As the administration continues developing plans to prop up aging, uneconomic coal and nuclear plants, many have wondered what the price tag for consumers would look like. Today, a new report is out from the Brattle Group that gives us a glimpse of what a two-year down payment for bailing out these plants could cost: between $9.7 and $35 billion a year.

Here’s a rundown of what cost figures could look like:

  • $16.7 billion per year, or roughly $34 billion for two years as proposed, if every coal and nuclear plant in the country were given a uniform ($ per unit of capacity) support at the level of the average financial shortfall experienced by such plants;
  • $9.7 billion to $17.2 billion annually, or roughly $20 billion to $34 billion over two years, if only those plants now facing shortfalls were given payments sufficient to cover their operating losses; or
  • $20 billion to $35 billion annually, or $40 billion to $70 billion total, if power plant owners were also granted a return on their invested capital in addition to payments for operating shortfalls.

“This report clearly shows that proposals to prop up coal and nuclear resources will needlessly raise the cost of electricity and hamstring U.S. manufacturers to compete in increasingly competitive domestic and international markets,” said John Hughes, President and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resources Council. “I fear, however, the impact is underestimated and that the actual impact on consumers will be worse.”

“Bailouts of coal and nuclear plants around the country could raise costs on American consumers and fundamentally hurt the administration’s goal of American energy dominance throughout the world,” said Todd Snitchler, Market Development Group Director at the American Petroleum Institute. “[G]overnment mandates forcing consumers to buy coal and nuclear power does nothing advance the security of our nation’s electric grid.”

“Arresting the retirement of uneconomic generating assets in the current market environment will likely prove quite costly,” Brattle notes.

As a reminder, grid operators, experts and utilities have all said that the nation’s electric grid faces no reliability or resiliency emergencies.

There is “no immediate calamity or threat” according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre.

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Get ready– American Wind Week 2018 (August 5-11) is less than a month away!

From barbeques to wind farm tours, a dozen events and counting spanning more than 10 states are in the works. And they all have at least one thing in common—they’ll be celebrating American wind leadership.

What kinds of events can we expect to see this American Wind Week?

In New Mexico, Pattern Energy and AWEA will host an advocacy training on August 10 at Mesalands Community College. Attendees will learn pro tips on how to meet with their elected officials, share their opinions in their newspapers and much more. Mesalands trains the next generation of American wind techs, one of the country’s two fastest growing jobs along with solar installer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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What else is going on during American Wind Week?

A camp in North Dakota will teach kids how to fly drones, a growing wind O&M tool. Members of Congress and state lawmakers are visiting the men and women in their districts who have rewarding wind careers, there will be opportunities to learn about wind at county fairs, and so much more. Keep track of everything going on by following #AmericanWindWeek on social media.

Last year, wind became America’s largest source of renewable energy capacity. And with world-class wind resources and innovative technology, this all-American energy source will continue growing its lead while creating jobs in farm, factory and port towns across all 50 states.

We still need your help to make American Wind Week stretch from coast to coast– invite an elected official to visit your wind farm or factory, host an open house or promote wind energy at a public event.

Events can be planned anywhere the wind blows in this 50 state industry, but big wind states like Texas, Iowa and Nebraska shouldn’t go without a Wind Week event. If you’re interested in organizing an event in one in these states or others, you can join the movement by emailing AWEA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We have a lot to celebrate this August 5-11, so let’s make sure we tell the whole story!

Here’s a look back at American Wind Week 2017, which serves as a preview of what’s to come in just a few short weeks.

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PES Wind

PES asked Steve Sawyer, Secretary General at GWEC for his outlook on the future of the wind industry markets. Will prices continue to fall or have they reached their lowest point? Where is the market increasing? Where is it slowing down? Read on and find out…

The global wind power market remained above 50 GW in 2017, with Europe, India and the offshore sector all having record years. Chinese installations were down – 19.66 GW – but the rest of the world made up for most of that. Total installations in 2017 were 52,492 MW, bringing the global total to 539,123 MW. The annual market was in fact down 3.8% on 2016’s 54,642 MW; and the cumulative total is up 11% over 2016’s year-end total of 487,219 MW.

The offshore segment had a record year with 4,331 MW of installations, an 87% increase on the 2016 market, bringing total global installations to 18,814 MW, and representing a 30% increase in cumulative capacity globally. Offshore was about 8.4% of the 2017 annual market, and represents about 3.5% of cumulative installed capacity, but it’s growing quickly.

Total new investment in clean energy rose to US$ 333.5bn (€296.8bn1) in 2017, up 3% over 2016, but still lower than the record investment of USD 348.5bn (EUR 324.6bn) in 2015. According to BNEF, China alone accounted for 40% of total investment with US$ 133bn (EUR 118.7bn); and the Asia Pacific region as a whole invested US$ 187 billion, over 57% of the total. Total investment in wind amounted to 107 billion US$.2