Potential Wind Energy Studied in U.S. Northwest

Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) used economic models developed by the National Energy Renewable Laboratory and the university to estimate the current impact of the wind industry, and what the impact of wind energy development would be in an “optimized” economy (75% local).

They report that wind energy development in Umatilla County could provide a $40 million dollar impact to the state’s economy, along with numerous new jobs to the area’s rural communities if local infrastructure is developed. Other Oregon counties also may have the potential to develop a wind energy industry, the researchers say. “In the last 25 years, many rural communities have gone through a significant economic decline,” said Bruce Sorte, a community economist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Small manufacturing shops and trucking operations have closed their doors or moved to more metropolitan areas. Local wind energy development provides an opportunity to rebuild rural infrastructures and revitalize communities.” Umatilla County has the capacity to generate about 480,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind energy per year, or enough energy to power roughly 46,000 Oregon homes annually. However, most of the current development is at a non-local level. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, said Melissa Torgerson, a graduate student in OSU’s Master of Public Policy program, and one of the report’s authors. “Our research indicates that if local capital could be used to support local ownership of wind turbines, the economic impacts of wind power development may be doubled or tripled,” said Torgerson. But in order for rural communities to succeed in local wind energy development, she added, they must look at start-up costs and the feasibility of wind power generation in their area. Gathering information about wind data, permitting processes, tax incentives and financing costs is a key first step for communities wanting to get involved in wind energy investment.

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