White County Wind Energy

Outcomes and Conclusions

As of summer 2019, White County had more than 350 turbines producing over 600 MW of energy, an amount sufficient to power close to 200,000 homes. The wind farm also saves more than 1.4 billion gallons of water each year that would have been used at a traditional power plant for cooling and displaces carbon emissions that would otherwise be produced in the county. In the most recent phase, the turbines themselves were constructed in neighboring Benton County using the roads in White County.

500equivalent jobs created during construction, with 38 being permanent jobs

$9 Mthe amount EDP has paid to the County from the economic development agreement

600 MWThe amount of energy produced, which is enough to power close to 200,000 homes

The economic benefit through the first six phases represents a capital investment of over $1 billion dollars. From a job standpoint, roughly 500 equivalent jobs were created during construction, and 38 ongoing maintenance jobs have been created for the upkeep of the turbines. Per the economic development agreement, EDP has paid over $9 million to the County, some of which has been remitted to local taxing units such as the schools and the library. Through 2018, EDP made $35 million in payments to the landowners in the county. These payments have boosted local spending power and translated to a higher level of local income taxes. The County also receives around $2.4 million from personal property taxes per year due to the wind farms.

Overall, the project was well-received by the community. There were some complaints during the road reinforcement from residents wondering when it would be completed, but since the completion of phase one, the County has only received one complaint. One reason why acceptance has been so high is that EDP gave payments to every household in the area even if they did not have a turbine on their property.

The success of the first installations has led to more wind installations in the planning stages and interest in developing solar in the county.


County officials did not note any challenges in the process, but they did reaffirm that bringing in outside legal and financial counsel helped simplify the project for the County. Learning from the experiences of Benton County also made the process easier for White County.

Lessons Learned

County Commissioner John Heimlich, one of the members of the County’s committee, said “it is important to get an ordinance in place before there are companies interested in these types of projects. The ordinances can be revisited later on, but it is helpful to regulate how the companies are able to operate from the get-go.”

Questions for discussion

These questions are designed to inspire readers—especially those wanting to learn broadly about climate change solutions—to think critically about the case study on this page and encourage deeper, more meaningful conversations. A list of ERIT case studies that include discussion questions can be found on the Resilient Communities Case Studies page. 

  1. In this case study, incentives were an effective way to build public support. Read the Sustainable Development Code’s article on renewable energy incentives
    1. Briefly describe two types of incentive programs, then compare or contrast the White County approach to one of the examples in the article. 
  2. This is a good example of a public-private partnership. What are some ways that the county prepared to make this not only possible but advantageous to the county? 

Project Resources

To learn more about the process, or to see the agreements, contact:

John Heimlich
White County Commissioner