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United States

Unlocking rural American land assets

Wind plant builders should not ignore the "enormous assets" rural America brings to the table when seeking equity participation in their projects, said the US Department of Agriculture's Thomas Dorr at the annual US wind industry trade show. "Farmers and other rural landowners and investors already own the underlying resource, the land on which the turbine is going to be installed or on which the transmission lines will have to run. In my view, that is an advantage that we should and that we intend to leverage. We are cognisant, as well, that rural America is also awash in latent investment capital." Dorr said farm equity, primarily in the form of land value, has more than doubled in the last decade. "At nearly $2.3 trillion, America's net farm equity is larger than the GDP of all but the world's seven largest nations. That's huge and that's equity that is available to be leveraged if it is done in a responsible and a proper way." Local equity investment in wind can make a "very tangible difference in your ability to politically site and locate these projects." Dorr oversees USDA Rural Development, an agency he describes as an investment bank for rural America. It currently has a portfolio of $100 billion of investment in rural infrastructure. Since 2001, it has provided renewable and energy efficiency projects more than $675 million in grants, loans and loan guarantees, stimulating $2.5 billion in total investment. "Renewable energy, frankly, is a relatively recent but growing part of our portfolio,'' he said. "We recognise renewable energy, including wind, is probably the greatest new wealth creating opportunity for economic growth and jobs for rural areas in our lifetimes. Our job is simply to help rural communities realize that potential."

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