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Thu, May

Another West Texas wind power success story

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You may have missed it over the holidays, but Inside Climate News recently did a deep dive into West Texas’s wind power success story. From new jobs to added local funds and income for farmers and ranchers, it reads like a greatest hits of wind’s many community benefits. Here are a few highlights:

Jobs for Texans of all persuasions

“The students James (Beall) teaches are a slice of the next generation of wind workers for an industry that, at least in this part of the country, has already established itself. They include veterans and women, those leaning politically right and left, environmentalists and climate change skeptics, the civically engaged and those who never vote. The clean energy component seems to be a bonus for some, but it was not the primary reason they chose this field. There is the laid-off gas worker who noticed all the wind turbines on the horizon and thought there must be an opportunity there. The English major who couldn’t find a job and remembered how much she liked the outdoor work on her family’s farm in the Texas panhandle. The two veterans who liked the element of risk and heights and the sweet spot of job independence and camaraderie.”

Reason number one: Job security

“Protecting the environment is not (Scott Maxey’s) motivation for getting involved in the industry. Sure, he said, it’s important to be “responsible stewards” of the earth. “There’s no reason to pollute rivers. There’s no reason to go down and just mow down environments just because we can. Totally not okay.” But he went into this field for one reason only: job security.”

Benefits for the whole community

“In pre-wind, our county taxable value was $500 million,” Ken Becker, executive director of the Sweetwater Economic Development Corp., explained. “In 2008, it was $2.8 billion,” a five-fold increase that translated to new schools and grand expansions at the local hospital. That’s money for the town, but also a steady income for local landowners, some of whom earn up to $1,000 per month from having a single commercial turbine on their property—and most of the region’s world-class wind farms are dotted across private land. Many say they’re “not sure they’d even have the ranch today if the wind didn’t come on,” Ken (said).

You can read the full story here, and check out this video to hear firsthand from some of the interviewees:

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