BLOG | MAY 20, 2021

When Leasing Your Land for Wind Energy, Think Local

This blog was originally published while our Development team was still operating under the Borrego business name. We’re now New Leaf Energy, the same team under a new name.

Did you know that as little as one or two wind turbines, leased on a relatively small footprint of your land, can power up to 2,500 homes in your community? For landowners in New York especially, these small wind energy projects are becoming a viable opportunity to earn stable, long-lasting lease income without disrupting farming operations — while also focusing on your community.

We have pulled together some helpful information about local Community Wind programs, how they’re different from large wind farms, and why there’s never been a better opportunity for landowners to participate, even those with smaller sites than are typically required for larger wind farms or community solar projects.

NY’s Clean Energy Standard is powering community wind development

New Yorkers are likely familiar with the state’s ambitious clean energy goals, which call for 70% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. With just short of 10 years left to reach these goals, there’s rapid growth in renewable energy development happening all across the state to not only build large-scale wind and solar projects, but also to bring hundreds of smaller, community wind projects online that will directly support the local homes and businesses where the energy is generated. 

As their name implies, these smaller wind energy projects stay within the local community, so they don’t require significant grid upgrades or huge transmission costs to ship the electricity elsewhere in the state — making them a critical part of the overall energy mix that will help the state reach its goals. 

What is community wind energy?

Much like community solar programs which are prevalent across New York state, community wind programs harness the power of the wind to generate electricity, which is then available to local businesses and residents who subscribe to the program. Participants buy the electricity at discounted rates, often lower than those for non-renewable electricity providers. And for many rural communities, knowing that this discounted electricity will stay local — and isn’t shipped off to urban areas — is also compelling.

When you think of wind energy, it’s easy to imagine wind farms with dozens of turbines that provide massive amounts of power that gets transmitted across vast distances. But the community wind model is at a much smaller scale, generating and delivering electricity within the local community, typically from just one or two turbines. And with improved wind turbine technology, as little as 5 acres of land can produce enough wind energy to power 2,500 local homes.

A boost to the local community

Community wind projects don’t just produce clean energy to support the state’s climate goals — they also benefit the local community where they’re built. Town and county municipal services, like schools and parks, typically receive a much-needed boost from increased tax revenue. Similarly, studies show that wind power often drives economic development. (Source: American Wind Energy Association)

Beyond municipal tax revenue, each community wind project can also create more than 30 local jobs over the life of the project, including some long-term jobs for operations and maintenance. While some of those jobs are shorter-term construction jobs, rapid renewable energy growth across the state will result in thousands of well-paying construction jobs in the coming years, including the rural areas where these community projects are built. This renewable energy construction and wind development is also expected to have a ripple effect on related sectors, since construction of the projects will require locally-sourced materials such as gravel, concrete, electrical materials and steel.

Impacts to landowners, their community, and the environment

All construction and development comes with some impact to nearby neighbors, but experienced wind developers know how to work with landowners and their neighbors to minimize impact. As part of every project’s development process, each site is thoroughly vetted and studied for any potential environmental impact. Permitting these projects typically involves a comprehensive look at wetlands, historical & cultural resources, and any endangered or threatened species. Developers also work with avian specialists and the Department of Environmental Conservation to understand and avoid adverse effects on bird or bat populations. This ensures that we adequately access risk and determine any needed mitigation.

When they’re operational, wind turbines make for quiet neighbors, making no more ambient sound than a common household air conditioner. Though they’re still visible nearby, we typically set turbines back from roads and nearby structures. The towers that the blades turn on are about 345 feet tall, and at the highest point, the tops of the blades reach about 600 feet. Construction itself is of short duration, lasting four to six months and causing only minimal disruption and construction noise, most often from truck traffic and turbine assembly.

Many communities are concerned about maintaining agricultural land use, keeping farms and orchards in operation. This farmland is ideal for renewable energy projects, but the small footprint of community wind means farm operations can continue during construction and after the project is built. In fact, wind leases can provide landowners with a stable and much-needed source of long-term income to retain ownership of their land, maintain and expand farming operations, or provide income during retirement or slow farming seasons.

How much land do you need for community wind projects?

With so much opportunity in New York for renewable energy development, one of the most exciting prospects for owners of smaller parcels is the ability to lease a site as small as five to ten acres for community wind energy. Lease terms typically last for 20-25 years and can result in up to $25,000 per year, during which time the project will be operated and maintained by the system owner. The lease payments stay with the land if the title changes hands.

For more information about lease rates for wind in New York, please contact us today.

About New Leaf Energy

At New Leaf Energy, we’re driven by our mission to solve the world’s energy problems by accelerating renewable energy production. We have decades of experience working with landowners in rural communities to develop and build more than 1 gigawatt of solar, and we’ve helped more than 50 landowners in New York state alone harvest the financial opportunity of their land for renewable energy. Our success over the last 40 years is based on the long-term partnerships we’ve built with landowners, neighbors, utilities, and local permitting authorities. Our goal is always to develop and engineer a sustainable project that performs well for years to come. As one of the most trusted names in solar, we’re also a family-run business — so we understand the importance of making careful choices for your land. Read more to learn why hundreds of landowners have chosen our team and trusted us with their land leases over the years.

David Strong

Senior Project Developer, Wind