Letter: Riding the wind for revenue savings
The public-use Otis Wind Project at the Williams Stone Quarry will produce estimated budgetary gains of $200,000-$250,000 annually. Financed with loans, a $400,000 grant, and a $2.7 million subsidy, the community is going to come out ahead financially. Still, for many communities, that $6.4 million price tag may seem daunting; there is a certain amount of risk in any long-term investment, and what if the market fails? Thankfully, the wind energy market is here to stay, and so are the gains of investment in wind power.
In 2016, wind continued its steady march toward dominance of the U.S. energy market. Quarter 4 of 2016 was the wind industry's second strongest quarter ever, and profits overall continue to remain stable. General Electric, the company behind the Otis windmill and the only American company with significant market share, made over $500 million in profits from wind in 2016.
Nationally, unsubsidized utility-scale wind is the single cheapest energy source, even cheaper than natural gas on average. Total required land for an entirely wind-powered U.S. economy is about the size of Rhode Island, and although transmission loss may defeat the idea of an entirely Midwestern-based energy scheme, Midwestern states from North Dakota to Texas to Ohio and all coastal states — from Washington to Texas to Maine — can cash in big, while small hillside Massachusetts towns like Otis can still come out ahead.
Wind jobs are fast increasing. In 2014, against the backdrop of an 18 percent loss of energy market jobs, wind power employment grew 20 percent to total 88,000, roughly two-thirds of them blue collar.
Wind power has a winning business model that can save towns like Otis hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Although Otis may have gained an advantage by investing early, other communities in the Berkshire area can still get in on the savings by investing in wind power for their community today.
The writer is an environmental policy and political economy double major at Williams College.
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