Monday, March 09, 2009

NMSU expert says New Mexico in the midst of a land rush for wind

At times, the formidable winds known across much of the Western United States can be unpleasant, but now Western farmers and ranchers are seeing dollar signs in the wind as they look to lease portions of their land to wind farm developers. “We are seeing a wind land rush in New Mexico by more than two dozen wind developers of all stripes and shades,” said Robert Foster, associate director of New Mexico State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. He also is a program manager for NMSU’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. Three elements necessary for a successful wind farm, Foster said, include land with a good wind resource, access to transmission lines and a contract to sell the energy. A piece of land is considered optimal for a wind farm if it has average annual winds greater than 15 miles per hour. On average, a wind farm’s footprint with roads and transmission lines is only about 10 percent of the land, so 90 percent is still available for livestock or crops. “Livestock are not scared of wind turbines and you’ll often see cows sitting in the shade of a turbine. Birds can easily see wind turbines and avoid flying through them. There are occasional bird kills, but usually during bad weather, such as fog, when they cannot see the turbines. That’s generally not a problem in New Mexico,” Foster said. Currently, ranchers in New Mexico receive about $1.8 million a year for leasing their lands for wind farms...Southwest Farm Press

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