Imagine PixelCraft has assembled a collection of images showcasing the growing renewable energy trend in the Midwest. As stewards of over half the land and water resources in America, farmers and ranchers are determined to be involved in the development of climate change solutions. By far the most impressive expansion of renewable energy can be found in the wind sector, which has grown 27% per annum since 2005, reaching 159 GW at the end of 2009, predominantly in the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India.
Wind energy projects are farmers’ and landowners’ new cash crop. Wind turbines are changing the agricultural landscape both aesthetically and financially across rural Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. These photos illustrate that wind farms are now found in many corn and soybean fields. Landowners receive annual per megawatt payments for each wind turbine they have on their property. However, shared ownership of a wind energy system can bring in significantly more in profits.
Iowa is the second largest producer of wind energy in the US, just behind Texas. Iowa ranks second nationally in current wind generation output with 3,670 megawatts installed employing 2,534 turbines across the state. (AWEA, 2010). Iowa and Texas are the only two states in the nation to manufacture all of the main components of a wind turbine — turbines, blades and towers. This has helped neighboring states, Minnesota and Illinois, to have a rapidly expanding base of wind projects coming online as well.
Environmentally Sustainable Economic Growth
Wind energy also stimulates the growth of rural communities by adding a long-term source of highly-skilled jobs. For every one megawatt of installed capacity, wind energy produces 22 direct and indirect jobs. Five jobs are added for installing turbines and 17 jobs per megawatt (MW) are added related to manufacturing. Across the country, the U.S. wind industry directly employs more than 2,000 people and contributes to the economies of 46 states. These jobs include the installation, operation, and maintaining of turbines and the manufacturing of the turbine’s blades, electronic components, gearboxes, generators, towers, and other equipment.
A study conducted by the New York State Energy Office states that wind energy creates 27% more jobs in the state than the amount produced by a local power plant and 66% more than a natural gas power plant.
Wind energy can diversify the economies of rural communities, adding to the tax base and providing new types of income. Wind turbines can add a new source of property taxes in rural areas that otherwise have a hard time attracting new industry. Each 100 MW of wind development in southwest Minnesota has generated about $1 million per year in property tax revenue and about $250,000 per year in direct lease payments to landowners.
All of these benefits are helping renewable energy move into the mainstream of energy markets. There are several benefits for our future. 1,000 megawatts of wind energy can power 250,000 homes and is the equivalent to removing the emissions placed in the atmosphere by 682,000 cars in the state of Iowa in a year’s time. A recent study conducted by “Wind Utility Consulting” projects that, within a 600 mile radius of Iowa, approximately $5.7 billion dollars in wind generation projects will be constructed each year over the next five years.
Because wind energy is a homegrown energy, it reduces our independence on fossil fuels. This can help improve rapid increases in fuel costs. Distributed generation centers for community wind projects help safeguard potential terrorist threats to these plants.
Environmental Benefits of Renewable Energy
Wind turbines don’t emit any pollution that could contaminate lakes and streams. Wind energy also conserves water. 600 times more water is needed to produce electricity with nuclear power and 500 times more water is needed to produce electricity with coal, than with wind. Traditional sources of electricity are associated with air pollution, acid rain, global warming, radioactive waste disposal issues, and oil spills. Wind energy is almost completely pollution free.
Changing Rural Scenes
But wind power production is not without contraversy. People have widely varied reactions to seeing wind turbines on the rural landscape. Wind turbines are typically 70 – 94 meters tall, dominating the skyline. Some people see graceful symbols of economic development and environmental progress or sleek icons of modern technology. Others might see images of industrial encroachment in natural and rural landscapes. There are many ways to minimize the visual impact of wind turbines, including painting them a neutral color, arraying them in a visually pleasing manner, and designing each turbine uniformly.
Wind turbines are not silent. The sounds they produce are typically foreign to the rural settings where wind turbines are often used, but as turbine technology has improved the amount of noise has fallen sharply.
Wind energy production has become a significant economic force in rural America, particularly the Midwest. One result of the distributed nature of wind energy generation could be the democratization of energy production—significantly lowering future energy costs. That idea obviously does not sit comfortably with the few owners of today’s predominately fossil fuel-based energy sources.
How Imagine PixelCraft is Helping the Environment
— Ron Abel