When the federal government announced half a billion dollars in grants last week to help develop wind-energy projects, more than a few land investors and farm owners around the country probably picked up the sweet scent of cash.
That's because wind farming is the hot new sideline source of income shaping up for potentially thousands of landowners whose acreage happens to be in the right place. Wind projects are high on the Obama administration's list of renewable energy to encourage -- even subsidize -- in the coming two decades.
Wind energy generation companies are on the prowl for acreage where they can install turbines, ideally in locations that have average year-round wind speeds of eleven to thirteen miles per hour.
If the acreage also happens to be in the general vicinity of existing high-power electrical transmission lines, and not too remote from population centers, that's all the better.
In central Iowa, farmers are negotiating leases of $4,000 to $5,000 per year per turbine -- and in other areas that figure can go to $8,000 and even $15,000, according to Loyd Brown, president of Hertz Farm Management in Nevada, Iowa.
The bigger the turbine, the bigger the royalty. Plus there are annual lease payments for road access on top of that.
Land owners who sign up for royalty arrangements with wind power companies don't have to stop their regular farming activities, by the way. But putting in turbines can definitely affect farm operations.
"It's not all gravy" for the land owners, Brown told Real Estate-Realtor Times in an interview last week. "There are definitely some negative aspects."
For example, certain types of cash crops are more difficult to cultivate if there are turbines on the property. Seed corn, for one, requires certain row formatting that is more difficult with turbines. Also, putting in tall turbines limit farmers' ability to do aerial spraying of crops.
Brown says not all landowners want to get involved, even with the lucrative side income wind energy produces.
But the boom in wind faming is already having effects on acreage prices in areas where developers are courting landowners and investors. Brown's firm, which manages two thousand farms in the Midwest, now is seeing a whole new element added to property appraisals: Annual turbine lease revenues on top of crop revenue yield per acre.
There's now a premium being paid for land if it's got turbines on it, or may soon have, because it generates more income per year for the owners.
If you own land, or are considering investing, check it out. Wind farming is an income source that's literally blowin' in the wind.