Wind-power development in the U.S. occurs primarily on private land, producing royalties for landowners through private contracts with wind-farm operators. Texas, the U.S. leader in wind-power production with well-documented support for wind power, has virtually all of its ~12 GW of wind capacity sited on private lands. Determining the spatial distribution of royalty payments from wind energy is a crucial first step to understanding how renewable power may alter land-based livelihoods of some landowners, and, as a result, possibly encourage land-use changes. We located ~1700 wind turbines (~2.7 GW) on 241 landholdings in Nolan and Taylor counties, Texas, a major wind-development region. We estimated total royalties to be ~$11.5 million per year, with mean annual royalty received per landowner per year of $47,879 but with significant differences among quintiles and between two sub-regions. Unequal distribution of royalties results from land-tenure patterns established before wind-power development because of a “property advantage,” defined as the pre-existing land-tenure patterns that benefit the fraction of rural landowners who receive wind turbines. A “royalty paradox” describes the observation that royalties flow to a small fraction of landowners even though support for wind power exceeds 70 percent.
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