Renewable Northwest staff
Harvesting Wind Power
April 3, 2013

Through a community-wide investment in wind power, a rural county in Oregon is earning millions of dollars to build their economy, cutting carbon and demonstrating that clean energy is both practical and profitable.


Sherman County, OR, along the Columbia River, is earning millions of dollars through a community-wide investment in wind power to build their rural economy. The county has created a reliable influx of cash to strengthen the local economy through partnerships with the utilities, clean energy project investors, wind producers, and policy support from the Renewable Northwest Project. The county has already reaped over $17 million in property taxes and wind energy revenue.

“It didn’t take very long until the local farmers said, yeah I’d like to have one or two of those on my property. They’re getting anywhere from two to six thousand dollars per turbine. You could have 50 turbines on your place, and that’s $100,000 of annual income that they weren’t getting.”
Gary Thompson, Sherman County Judge

Community Involvement

Ormand and Jeff Hilderbrand, landowners and farmers in Sherman County, added to the wind power surge by installing their own community wind farm installation to bolster the economic productivity of their farm and their community. The six 1.5 MW turbines on their property, which started producing power in December 2010, feeds electricity back into the grid, meaning annual payments not only to wind power companies, but to actual community members.

Thinking Local

In addition to individual checks, the utility payout from the wind energy is being routed directly back to projects that benefit the whole county. Sherman County has reinvested in tax revenue, purchased new supplies for schools, funded the fire and health departments, and funded capital projects like renovating schools and other public buildings. Andto further promote clean energy investments in the area, the County has begun offering zero-interest loans for homeowners to install solar systems.

Key Players:

Renewable Northwest     
Represented by: Rachel Shimshak, Executive Director
Renewable Northwest works to promote and facilitate the installation of renewable energy systems in the Northwest. They assisted many of the individual community wind projects in developing partnerships and constructing the wind farms.
PaTu Wind Farm
Represented by: Ormand Hilderbrand
A family owned farm in Sherman County that has installed a community wind project.
Sherman County           
Represented by: Judge Gary Thompson, County Commissioner


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Author Bio

Bobby is former Solutions Stories and Media Manager with Climate Solutions. In that role, he worked to identify and engage new audiences for our programs and campaigns throughout the Northwest, with a focus on the Solutions Stories.

Bobby spent six years as the National Representative at the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition (SOS), mobilizing support to restore the Columbia-Snake River Basin, a watershed home to some of the world’s best habitat for wild salmon and steelhead in a changing climate.

After receiving his degree in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2003, he advocated on behalf of working people and the environment. In addition to SOS, Bobby has worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 503) and America Coming Together, and volunteered for the Trout Unlimited, Elders in Action, and UNITE HERE.

Bobby hails from central Pennsylvania and has lived in Oregon since 1998. When he's not working, Bobby can be found with his partner Jenny and their cat Jove, playing music with friends, out and about on his bike, or working in the garden.