Wind energy - pro: North Dakota pioneers wind-powered Midwest
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.--North Dakotans have a long history of pioneering new territory. During the 1800s, they settled on the Great Plains and used to area's fertile soil to establish a farming and ranching tradition that endures today.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.-North Dakotans have a long history of pioneering new territory. During the 1800s, they settled on the Great Plains and used to area's fertile soil to establish a farming and ranching tradition that endures today.
But new challenges persist in the 21st century. How can that agricultural tradition be kept alive? How do we ensure communities have the resources they need to prosper in the years ahead?
North Dakotans are increasingly finding another of the state's natural resources can help: wind energy.
Today, North Dakota is one of America's wind power leaders, using wind to generate more than 20 percent of the state's electricity in 2016. And that has created a lot of business.
Wind development has attracted more than $5 billion and counting into North Dakota's economy. It has also created more than 4,000 well-paying jobs.
Many of those can be found at LM Wind Power, Grand Forks' second largest private employer. Nearly 1,000 workers build wind turbine blades at the plant.
LM is just one of the more than 500 U.S. factories that build wind-related parts, as the U.S. wind industry is doing one of the hardest things in America: creating new manufacturing jobs. Wind will add another 8,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by the end of President Trump's first term.
Wind energy also offers an important source of steady income for North Dakota's farmers and ranchers. In 2016, they were paid between more than $5 million for hosting turbines. They can count on that income in the thin-margin farming business, where fluctuating commodity prices or poor weather can wreak havoc.
Often, it can make the difference between continuing a multi-generation tradition and ending a way of life.
"This means we won't have to worry about being able to pass the ranch to the next generation. The lease payments we get will ensure our lifestyle," said David Day, a rancher from Moffit, N.D.
"Older people can look forward to this income in retirement. For middle-aged ranchers with children, wind lease payments are a security net that allows them to upgrade operations or pay for their kids' college."
Entire communities benefit from wind projects, however, not just those leasing their land. Wind farms often become the largest taxpayer in a county, substantially boosting local revenue. That greatly increases county coffers and helps fix roads, pay teacher salaries and buy new ambulances.
North Dakota plays an important role in the Midwest's new wind-powered economy. The region now has 18,000 wind jobs, and new wind farm construction has brought in $28 billion of investment.
By pioneering a new energy source, North Dakota is ensuring a prosperous future for generations to come. Because it creates jobs, offers stability for farmers and ranchers and provides financial boons to local communities, wind energy presents opportunities for the state's families and businesses.
North Dakota should take advantage of all of its natural resources, whether those resources are above or below ground.
No matter how you look at it, wind works for North Dakota.
Hirner is Midwest region director for the American Wind Energy Association.