Of Nolan County's estimated 14,878 residents, an estimated 1,124 have jobs directly related to wind energy, according to a study released earlier this week by the West Texas Wind Energy Consortium.
The wind industry boom has stimulated job growth across the entire local economy. Some 1,500 construction workers are engaged in Nolan County's five major wind energy projects. Building permit values shot up 192 percent in 2007 over 2001 values. Sales tax revenues increased 40 percent between 2002 and 2007. The county's total property tax base expanded from $500 million in 1999 to $2.4 billion this year.
The majority of U.S. wind projects are being established on privately owned farmland, which has yielded farmers annual compensations between $2,000 and $5,000 per megawatt of installed capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association. In Nolan County, such royalties have amounted to an estimated $12.3 million into the pockets of private landowners, according to the consortium report.
In Sweetwater, Martin and seemingly every other business owner is benefiting from the wind energy boom. The population is growing. Unemployment is down. The tax base has swelled so much that Nolan County actually cut taxes last year.