Farmers harvesting the benefits of wind energy

March 5, 2020

With U.S. farm bankruptcy rates rising, farmers have been turning to the wind energy to make ends meet. Sarah Mills, senior project manager at the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) was featured in a USA Today article on February 16, commenting on the benefits farmers reap from participating in the wind energy industry.

While some see wind energy as a controversial topic, a study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that “people who live within 5 miles of wind turbines found high overall acceptance of wind power projects.”

When farmers set up wind farms, they can earn an annual $3,000 to $7,000 for hosting the turbines. According to Mills, this can make a difference in their long-term plans and capital investments. “What they [farmers] told me was that the guaranteed income that comes from hosting a turbine was convincing their kids that farming wasn’t such a risky business,” she said. 

The added financial security helps guarantee a succession plan for the property, Mills emphasized. Furthermore, her research found that “farmers with turbine income invested more in their barns, tractors and other farming operations than neighbors who didn’t.”

“The sense was, ‘I can take a loan out now because I know I’m going to be able to pay it off in the future,’ ” she said.

Read the full article here.

Sarah Mills is a Senior Project Manager at the Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). She serves as project manager for the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE) and the Center's Energy and Environmental Policy Initiative. Sarah's research considers how renewable energy development impacts rural communities, the disparate reactions of rural landowners to such projects, and how state and local policies facilitate or hinder renewable energy deployment. She has a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan, a master's in engineering for sustainable development from the University of Cambridge, a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University.