A wind turbine in the United Kingdom, shot in three exposures, making three blades look like nine.
Photo: Nickpix2008

It may not be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there are financial gains to be had in wind power. Wind power, also known as wind energy, is the conversion of wind energy into useful form such as electricity using wind turbines. Wind energy is renewable, clean, widely distributed, plentiful, and reduces green house gas emissions, unlike fossil fuels.

The placement of wind turbines is critical in the economic development of wind power. Many factors are considered in the placement site of a wind turbine, such as the availability of wind, the cost of land acquisition, land use consideration, the availability of transmission lines, and the value of energy to be produced. Offshore locations offset higher construction cost with higher annual load factors. This reduces the cost of energy produced. A “water pumping windmill” is powered by wind to keep storage tanks flowing with non-polluted water. The development of the “water-pumping windmill” was a major factor in allowing the ranching and farming of broad areas of North America that were empty of accessible water.

Recently, I visited King City, Missouri, where wind turbines are in use at this time. As I did more research and asked more questions to people that had a lot of information for me, I learned that the environmental effects of wind power are minor. Often the main complaint about the installation of wind turbines is the danger to bats and birds. However studies show that the number of birds killed by a wind turbine is insignificant compared to the number that die from other human activities.

The energy that is consumed to manufacture and transport materials used to build a wind power plant is equal to the new energy produced by the plant in just a few months of operation. I personally believe that the conversion of wind energy into electricity will benefit our economy. Wind power provides unlimited and affordable energy to the economy. Wind energy also provides jobs and alternative sources of income. Wind powers the economy without polluting the environment, causing hazardous waste or depleting natural resources. Best of all it has no hidden costs! Wind energy is also dependent on a free fuel source, the wind, and is immune to inflation. Wind farms are able to restore the economy in agricultural communities, because they provide a steady income through lease payments to farmers or landowners. Whereas leasing arrangements can differ extensively, a fair estimation for income to a landowner from a single utility turbine is about $3,000 a year. Farmers raise livestock or grow crops right next to the turbines. Wind farms may expand over a large geographical area, but they actually only cover a small portion of the land. This makes wind development a perfect way for farmers to earn added income.

Farmers are not the only ones who can earn extra income by investing in wind power. For example, in Spirit Lake, Iowa, the local school is bringing in income by the electricity that is generated from their wind turbine. Wind farms expand the local tax base, by keeping energy dollars in the community instead of spending them to pay for gas or coal produced somewhere else.

The U.S. wind industry currently employs more than 2,000 people. The wind industry also contributes directly to the economies of 46 states, with manufacturers and power plants that produce blades, generators, wind turbines, electronic components, gearboxes, and a broad variety of other equipment. The Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) proclaims that every megawatt of installed wind capacity generates about 4.8 job-years of employment, both direct and indirect.

Finally, the wind also benefits the economy because it reduces hidden costs of medical care for the health consequences of air pollution. Numerous studies have estimated that 50,000 Americans die each year prematurely as a result of air pollution. Wind energy may not be that mythical pot of gold, but I believe it has real power to sustain and improve our economy.

This essay by Jenna Kennedy, from Stewartsville MO, won the Missouri Farmers Union's 2008 essay contest. Jenna is a member of the Stewartsville FFA chapter.

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