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Wind Energy an Opportunity for Rural Income, Jobs, and Economic Development

Feb. 21, 2011

Audio with Tom Potter, Colorado Wind for Schools Facilitator (MP3 1.8 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:01:53

There's some debate as to whether energy efficiency and conservation are the answer to energy security and global climate concerns, or if clean energy generation has a big role to play.

Colorado Wind for Schools Coordinator Tom Potter is a believer that both are important, but he says one comes with a much greater return for rural America.

"The largest long-term opportunity for major new rural income, jobs, and economic development will come from clean generation like wind. That's where we see the big payoff."

Greater acceptance of wind development is needed to take full advantage of those benefits, and unfortunately, Potter says there are still skeptics. He says there are several myths that have kept people on the fence or in opposition to wind energy development.

"Three that come to mind are that wind must be backed up by 100% generation, that's just not true. A second one is you can't add wind without building more transmission lines, that's also not true. And finally, that only a few fat cats are going to benefit from the wind around here. That's not true either."

In fact, Potter notes landowners benefit from having turbines on their land, and in turn, local communities benefit as county tax rolls are improved. He has seen tax rolls increase by 30-percent as a result of wind projects.

"Thirty-percent of the taxes in some of our rural counties are now being paid by the wind machines. That means better roads, it means better schools, it means better life all around for everybody in the county. So there are some very good benefits to the entire community."

Potter says there is a benefit for urban areas as well.

"The urban areas, they want the clean energy, they can get that. We'll produce it in rural areas with income and economic development going to rural areas."

Potter believes wind can be an important revenue source for rural utilities, as well, providing them with an opportunity to remain viable.

—Julie Jones