Economic Costs &
Benefits of Wind Energy
Three factors in recent years have made wind energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels:
1) Great technological advances in wind turbine technology, leading to the broad introduction of Megawatt-class turbines, have dramatically lowered the overall market price of wind power.
2) Great volatility in fuel prices, especially of natural gas, have caused the domestic and constant-cost attributes of wind power to be a great asset to many utilities intent on hedging fuel costs.
3) The hidden external costs of fossil fuel- and nuclear-generated electricity (e.g., domestic security, air and water contamination, public health, ecosystem-wide habitat destruction, etc.) have become more and more apparent and the public thus less and less tolerant.
Locally, wind power projects financially benefit not only participating landowners with lease payments, but also the larger community with PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Tax) agreements, or some other form of host-community benefit agreement. Project construction also creates a huge, albeit temporary, influx of capital for goods and services. It’s also true that, contrary to many claims, there are little or no conclusive data to suggest that wind farms depress local real estate markets. In fact, evidence from many projects suggests that wind farms play a positive economic role as a tourist attraction to both school children and adult visitors alike.
While it can be difficult to put precise dollar values on many of the costs and benefits of energy production, considering the many variables involved is a useful exercise and the following websites are good places to start.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
National Resources Defense Council