Renewable energy is fueling rural Texas economies
Texas rural counties are realizing dramatic financial benefits from renewable energy projects as cited in a study released today from Powering Texas and Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation. Titled “The Economic Impact of Renewable Energy in Rural Texas,” the data analysis specifically focuses on county tax revenue and landowner payments from wind and solar projects across the state. The report was recently unveiled at the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce’s “West Texas Moving Forward” conference.
Texas is the energy capitol of America. Our state is the national leader in the generation of renewable wind energy, with more than 30,000 MW of installed capacity as of Q2 2020 that generated approximately 20 percent of the electricity used by Texans in 2019. Texas currently ranks #4 nationally in installed solar capacity and the solar industry has created over 10,200 jobs in the state.
“All Texans are beneficiaries of renewable energy, but rural Texas is the key component of this success. This research confirms the tremendous economic value and benefit that utility scale projects bring to the communities that host them. Renewable energy powers our state, but it’s also fueling vital programs, opportunities for rural families and well-paying jobs across the state,” said Matt Welch, State Director, Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation.
County Tax Revenue
Renewable energy projects have made a tremendous difference for rural Texas, generating significant county tax revenues that fund school improvements, first responder operations and other critical needs. In counties that lack manufacturing operations or other large capital investments to expand the tax base, renewable energy projects are filling the void.
The currently installed fleet of utility-scale wind and solar projects in Texas will generate between 4.7 billion and 5.7 billion in new tax revenue to local communities over their lifetime.
Oldham County, located in the Texas Panhandle, claims large tracts of land that carry agricultural exemptions, limiting the amount of revenue that the county and the four school districts can raise for road maintenance and retaining good schoolteachers. Before the wind industry arrived, Oldham’s tax base was about 248 million. As of 2019, the county tax base has increased to 342 million mainly due to a wind facility now fully on the tax roll. Don Allred, Oldham County’s Judge, has stated that “Wind has been a Godsend – it allows flexibility in budgeting by providing a constant source of revenues that you know will be there when you need them.”
Landowners across Texas play a critical role in the benefits that renewable energy offer our state. While these farmers and ranchers cultivate the land for agricultural purposes, they also harness the power of the sun and wind with major industry partners. For many families in rural Texas, this partnership with the renewable energy industry is the lifeline that allows them to keep their land intact and preserve their family legacy.
The currently installed utility-scale wind and solar projects in Texas will pay Texas landowners between $4.8 billion and $7.3 billion over the lifetime of those projects.
The pipeline for renewable energy development in Texas is strong. If all projects currently proposed and with interconnection agreements finalized are construction, existing and planned utility-scale wind and solar projects will pay between 8.1 billion and 10 billion in total tax revenue over their lifetimes. For landowners, that number grows to 8 billion to 13.1 billion over the existing and planned project lifetimes.
The Policy Environment
More than a decade ago, Texas legislators empowered local jurisdictions across the state to make decisions about investment in their community. That empowerment has created the opportunity for Texas counties to compete with other states and recruit needed investments for economic development. Texas is #1 in the United States for renewable energy development because decision makers positioned rural communities for success. This type of forward-thinking economic development framework must continue for further success and to enable rural counties to thrive.