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CNN recently reported on the booming renewable energy industry in rural America, where wind and solar power are providing economic benefits in an area traditionally devoted to oil and gas production.
Renewable energy production is providing economic stability for landowners in “red states,” and for many of the people in those communities, it just makes sense to harness their abundant wind and sun resources. “Weatherford Mayor Mike Brown told CNN that for the landowners in Western Oklahoma, the sound of a huge metal blade cutting through the atmosphere is ‘the sound of money’. For people who have long lived with wind whipping across their flat land, using it to make electricity is common sense.”
While the debate in Washington, D.C. about renewable energy is often an issue that pits Republicans against Democrats, residents of communities producing wind and solar power don’t see it that way. According to the CNN report, “The two Oklahoma counties that Traverse spans — Blaine and Custer — voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2020 election. But the divisive debate over clean energy vs. fossil fuel doesn’t really factor into the conversation here.”
The current generation of landowners embracing renewable energy production is also thinking about the future. The ups and downs of farming and ranching can turn younger generations away from continuing to work the land. Wind turbines allow landowners to generate revenue in years when crop production doesn’t turn a profit.
Economic benefits also flow into nearby communities where renewable energy projects provide tax benefits for schools, emergency services, and other community infrastructure. “Seeing those things up and turning, it gives us a little bit of hope for what the future might look like, because it will be a game changer for our budget, beyond belief,” says Thomas-Fay-Custer unified school district superintendent Rob Friesen. “It will allow us to take care of our kids.”
Landowner Cathy Baker hopes the wind turbines on her property will benefit future generations of her family. “I often wonder what my grandchildren are going to see,” she said. “We don’t always think we’re going to like change. But usually when it happens, it’s just fine.”