The important feature of wind power to farmers and ranchers is that farmers relying on good weather rather than irrigation now have an opportunity to lease their land to wind generator owners at more than $5,000 apiece each year and still get to use the land!

Texas, the high energy state

Starting with the oil boom a century ago, Texas and Oklahoma farmers became rich when companies began drilling and producing oil in the giant Eagle Ford Shale field. The East Texas field covers nearly 140,000 acres (nearly 600 sq. km.) and today has more than 30 thousand oil wells that have produced five- billion-plus barrels of liquid gold over the past century.

Big windy

Texas now has a new claim to fame in the energy arena with one of the largest wind farm projects in the world. In fact, Texas, if it were a separate country (as a surprising number of Texans have voted for), would be the fifth or sixth largest wind power generator in the world.

Texas wind farms are currently producing 18 gigawatts of electrical power, according to MIT’s Technology Review newsletter, and a planned expansion will add as much additional wind power generation capacity as all of California’s existing wind farms now provide.

In Pennsylvania and Ohio there was a similar boom a decade ago when Penn State University scientists proved a way to get natural gas out of the Marcellus and Barnett shale fields.

On my ranch alone there were three new wells drilled and an old one plugged, producing ongoing revenue from the yearly production of gas and also one-time fees that amounted to about $30,000 the first year while destroying less than one acre of pasture for each well.

Today the U.S. gets about four percent of its energy from wind power but under the Obama administration the Department of Energy outlined a plan to have 35 percent of the country’s energy come from wind turbines by the middle of the century.

Rick Perry, the trump nominee to head the DoE, was a long-time Texas governor who therefore supported big oil since no politician in Texas could get elected dog catcher if he didn’t support oil production. Many conservationists might think Gov. Perry (soon to be Secretary Perry) would be against clean energy and a reduced reliance on carbon fuels, but, given the increasing wind power generation and how it saves many small farmers and ranchers with its leases that may be a misconception - as Energy Secretary Perry may well be a strong proponent of wind power.


Unlike the dangers of fracking - forcing high pressure chemical streams into the shale to free up the natural gas pockets - that include causing earthquakes and sometimes polluting the groundwater, wind farms cause few ongoing problems for ranchers and farmers who can still plant on the land and graze cattle or sheep near the windmills.

There is a lot of pollution related to wind power but all, or nearly all, of it occurs at the places the generators are built - mostly China because the world's supply of rare earth elements needed to build the electrical components are 98 percent owned by China.

Although often touted as the wave of the future when it comes to energy jobs, local manufacturing for windmills consists of just building the towers and blades.