There’s a growing movement out west as ranchers and property owners in high, steady wind areas of Wyoming and neighboring western states turn to wind energy associations as a means of better understanding and coming to terms with the growing number of wind energy project developers and agents interested in leasing rights to their land.
Cattle ranchers in areas such as Wyoming’s Laramie Valley are having a tough time of it: though they’ve come down sharply of late, the cost of diesel and gasoline, as well as fertilizers, hay and other inputs, have shot up sharply over a period of years. This year’s calf prices, meanwhile, are the lowest since 2002 putting pressure on the many smaller, family run cow/calf operations spread across the Mountain West.
While demand for their calves and beef may be weak and margins tightening, ranchers in places like Laramie Valley are finding that they have another increasingly valuable natural resource: wind. In order to come to grips with the deals being put before them and cut better ones, typically fiercely independent ranchers and other property owners are forming wind energy associations, according to a report run by NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
Winds Out West
Wind project developers and land agents have become an increasingly common sight in high, steady wind areas across the Mountain West, typically negotiating with landowners one by one in order to amass the large plots necessary to build large-scale, grid-connected wind farms.
A typically cautious, independent lot, ranchers have found themselves on the short side when it comes to market information and just what such rights could, or should, be worth. That’s leading them to form wind energy associations, a collective bargaining and information sharing alternative that also affords project developers a more streamlined and efficient means of negotiating the rights they need, NPR’s Addie Goss reports for “All Things Considered”.
Seeing more and more wind project development agents canvassing such areas, longtime residents with deep roots in such places realized that ranchers were at a disadvantage when it came to understanding and negotiating the leasing rights deals they were being offered, and that, on the other side of the bargaining table, wind project developers would stand to benefit if they could cut deals for large blocks of acreage by dealing with one group.
In Wyoming, Grant Stumbough, who works for a state arm of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, two years ago began working with ranchers and property owners to form wind energy associations, cooperative affiliations that are now spreading to states across the West.