Landowner Shares What It’s Like to Host an Avangrid Renewables Wind Turbine
As one of the leading developers of wind projects in the United States, Avangrid Renewables works hard to earn the trust and respect of the communities where we do business. Onshore renewable energy is made on farms, ranches and ridgelines through long-term agreements to site assets such as turbines, substations and access roads on local landowners’ properties. We pay landowners for those rights, but we own those assets and therefore pay any local taxes accordingly.
One of the ways that we build rapport and grow trust in the communities where we operate is by behaving in a transparent and forthright manner and maintaining strong relationships with landowners. But what drives landowners to put wind turbines on their land? As part of our ongoing conversations with landowners and customers, we recently sat down with Marion Weatherford from Arlington, Oregon, to find out.
Q. Where is your property located?
Our family farm is 13 miles south of Arlington, along state highway 19. Arlington is 137 miles east of Portland on the Columbia River. Growing up here, all the wind could be a welcome relief on a hot day. But more often it seemed like a curse. It would erode the soil and further dry out the land and blow your hat across the field. So being able to diversify the land and utilize the wind for something positive like renewable energy, that’s a real blessing.
Q. How did your family come to occupy your property?
My brothers and I are the fifth generation of the family farming in Gilliam County. Our great-great-grandfather, William Washington Weatherford, came to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in 1861. He came out when he was 16 years old as an orphan. His four brothers and sisters joined him in 1864. Eventually, they started farming in 1881. Before that, no one farmed wheat in this county for commercial purposes. It was all open grassland and cattle. And that’s in the area where the Montague Wind Energy project on our family land is located. Today, the three brothers involved with the land are Bob Weatherford, Morris Weatherford and me.
Q. How did you start working with Avangrid Renewables?
We first talked to Avangrid Renewables in 2010 and they leased our land for potential wind farm development. We didn’t know until about two years later if a wind farm would be built. During that time, there were lots of other wind companies speculating on developing wind farms. But one of the few that had actually successfully developed a wind project in Gilliam County was Avangrid Renewables. So, among all the choices to lease my land for wind energy development, we chose them because of their experience and the fact that they were already here and were a really good neighbor. The construction on the ground started in about 2018. The construction goal is to have the turbines placed and completed and allow for energy production this year.
Q. How would you describe your experience working with Avangrid Renewables?
Avangrid is sensitive to the farming heritage in the area. They take the input of the farmer seriously. And so, the design of the turbine streams was chosen to be the least destructive to farming patterns. We will still grow wheat on that land. In the end, the footprint of where the turbines are located will be a small percentage of the farming land. We worked closely with the designers and the engineers to lay roads and turbine placement in a manner that accommodates farming. It’s a huge project. Some things are immovable, but any area where they have flexibility Avangrid accommodates the concerns of the landowner.
Q. What would you say to other landowners considering a similar partnership?
Wind projects are a tremendous boost to our rural economy. It helps diversify our farm. Many rural counties are financially strapped. Comparatively, in large part due to wind energy, Gilliam County is thriving. The revenue from these projects to the local government helps support the schools. It subsidizes senior housing. It helps provide public transportation. It helps public works, such as the library and the parks and community centers. And it helps finance economic development projects to diversify our local economy. So, the benefits are not just to the environment or to the company developing it or the landowners where the project is placed. The benefits are to all the citizens.