If the vision of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory holds true and produce 20 percent of U.S. energy from wind power by 2030, there will be significant demand for land on which to place with the huge wind turbines that will generate this power, said Brandon Blevins of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy at the recent National Land Conference of the REALTORS® Land Institute.
Leases for wind rights can be significant source of income for property owners, especially in the Midwest and Texas where wind currents are strongest. Blevins cited estimates that the wind economy could generate $782 million in direct payments to landowners, as well as $1.877 billion in local property tax revenues through 2030, on a national basis, cumulative over the 20-year scenario.
Wind farm developers generally pay either a royalty of 2 to 3 percent or a flat annual fee of between $2,500 and $4,000 annually for each megawatt of power generated, he said. Since land with wind farms can also be used for farming (so long as sprayers aren’t used) and recreation, the revenue stream is an add-on to current property returns. “I’ve heard farmers call it ‘the new cash crop,’” Blevins said.
Another source of green power, photovoltaic solar energy, is often best suited to urban centers, but a growing interest in concentrated solar power requires the large tracts of land that can only be found in rural areas, said Gil Melear-Hough, project coordinator for the Knoxville (Tenn.) Solar America Cities Program. These power projects require approximately 640 acres to generate 100 megawatts—more per acre than wind. However, land use for solar panels cannot be farmed at the same time.
A final land opportunity in the green energy sector exists in the need to expand the nation’s transmission grid to connect green power sources to consumers. Land brokers may have business opportunities working with power companies and attorneys to create easements and rights of way for transmission towers. Much of this expansion will occur over the next five to 10 years, fueled in part by federal stimulus funding, experts say.
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