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The anecdotal evidence found in Jefferson is backed by research on models of wind farms.

A 2005 report from the Iowa Policy Project cites three studies, all concluding that small-scale, locally owned wind projects create greater local economic benefits than large, out-of-area investors.

In one model created by the U.S. General Accountability Office, a locally owned Iowa wind farm created twice as many local jobs and generated six times more local spending related to the turbines.

Tom Wind carried out a similar analysis himself and found that local projects could keep approximately five times more money in the community and up to 10 times more money in the state (compared to a large owner based out of state), possibly amounting to $150,000 per wind turbine annually.

Ben Holmes of Renew Energy (top)
demonstrates safety equipment.

Wind and Sutton are pushing that potential for benefit one step further with Junction Hilltop. From the outset, the business partners committed to giving 10 percent of the wind farm’s profits to charitable purposes in the county.

“We’re still deciding how the donation will be distributed,” explains Wind, “but it was always the plan that Junction Hilltop would give back to the community.”

Fueling the Future

The potential for continued growth of locally owned wind farms is intimately linked to the federal and state incentives that encourage it.

In the case of Hardin Hilltop, a production tax credit at the federal level made the project attractive to its equity partner, and a production tax credit at the state level specifically designed for small wind projects provided necessary extra revenue to the partnership.

(Read more Power Players)

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