Water Conservation Just One of Many Reasons to Support Wind Energy

Dec. 20, 2012

Audio with Dan McGuire, American Corn Growers Foundation consultant (MP3 3.2 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:03:26.

The United States has been looking for more ways to become energy independent for many years. American Corn Growers Foundation Consultant Dan McGuire says wind energy is a great source for many reasons. One reason in particular is its benefit for rural economic development. Over the past couple of years, corn prices have been strong and farm income has been good, but McGuire says that could change in an instant. He says wind farms provide an alternative source of income for farmers and ranchers.

"In addition to that, you're talking about those projects providing property tax revenues that really help support rural schools, and beyond that, it provides sales tax revenues to the state tax coffers in all these states where they're located. It can be the difference between a rancher or a farmer maybe holding onto that land for the next generation and continuing that great way of life."

Recently Nebraska held its 5th Annual Wind Conference and McGuire says a number of people from across rural Nebraska attended—many saying wind energy brought their children back home.

Water is a hot topic in many Western states, too, and McGuire says wind energy can play a role in conserving water resources. Most electric power plants require water to operate, and he says water use in drought-stricken areas—like the western regions of the U.S.—is a big issue. Wind energy production, however, does not require water. The U.S. Department of Energy has outline a 20% wind energy by 2030 scenario.

"There is a study that was done by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, as well as American Wind Energy Association, and Black & Veatch, a consulting firm in Kansas City. That study showed that if we look out to the future, and if we were to have 20% wind energy by the year 2030, that scenario would reduce cumulative water use in the electric sector by 8%, or about 4-trillion gallons of water. So that's a big deal."

Looking at utility choices the DOE has, McGuire says those utilities can have different impacts on water resources. For example, a wet, cool coal plant uses three-times as much water as a combined-cycle gas plant, according to McGuire, compared to a wind turbine which is energy efficient and doesn't use water. He says a big question regarding wind energy, though, is if there is public support for wind energy.

"National polls recently and over the years have shown that 89% of all American voters support more wind energy. And I know in Nebraska we've had a number of polls done over the years. Ninety-one percent want more of our electricity to come from wind energy. And if you look at states around us, like Iowa, Iowa has about 20% of its electricity coming from wind energy. And, there's a real good reason why Iowa, Nebraska, and other states are looking at wind energy and wanting more of it. It creates a heck of a lot of jobs."

McGuire says wind power's economic impact under the 20% by 2030 scenario would create roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S. with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed each year and an economic expansion based on local spending. He says there are just so many reasons for people and organizations to advocate for wind energy.

—Julie Jones