A ranching family, who has stewarded more than 5,000 acres in southeastern Wyoming for generations, used information they found on LandGate.com to transform an eyesore on their property into a business-changing moneymaker. In two years, income from solar energy leases resulting from the information not only removed the pressure to sell a portion of their land but has created the opportunity to be debt-free.
“As a family who has been in the [cattle] ranching industry for over 100 years, we have found ways to keep our operation going through good times and bad,” said the current landowner, noting his ancestors staked this claim in Wyoming after his great-great grandfather lost his life—the ranch he homesteaded in New Mexico—to a stray bullet.
The legacy of resilience continued into World War II, where the landowner’s grandfather survived and saved the lives of others by using seeds from a Red Cross packet to plant a garden in the exercise yard of the Nazi prison camp where he was held, allowing him to return to the beloved land. During his tenure, the landowner’s father built a custom-farming business and held a public-service job to keep the land in the family.
“I have taken inspiration from the past and looked for new opportunities to move the ranch into the future,” the landowner said.
Maintaining a legacy ranch is not easy and family members have taken jobs off the ranch to help sustain the long-time cattle operation. Despite leasing its mineral rights in the past, the family never benefited from active oil and gas production, but the extra revenue had helped to keep the ranch afloat.
Earlier, they had been burned in a solar deal that tied up their land but produced no income. As a result, they distrusted landmen working for energy developers but were concerned that the family was going to miss out on legitimate business opportunities. Their predicament was resolved when they discovered LandGate’s free automated valuations for land resources and its attendant marketplace where the resources can be listed.
After researching their property on LandGate, the ranch owners found out the power lines they had dismissed for years could potentially be the property’s biggest asset.
When the COVID pandemic hit and leasing its mineral rights was no longer an option, the family used LandGate to research all their other land-based resources for free. To their surprise, the high-voltage transmission lines that once created consternation were a key factor in evaluating land for potential solar farm leasing. The family listed their land for lease for solar or wind development. Using LandGate data, several potential lessors found out that the transmission lines carried power from the 1,710 MW Laramie River Power Station that is due to be decommissioned. Several companies offered to lease a portion of the family’s 5,000-plus acres. Initially, the family successfully leased 1,200 acres. Soon after, they began receiving additional offers on their remaining acreage. Currently, the family is in three renewable energy lease agreements and is earning solar lease rent payments on almost every acre of ranchland it owns. Over the next three to four years, the family anticipates that the multiple projects now underway will result in significant revenue. In the meantime, they will continue their traditional ranching operations full-scale. “On the surface it seems that agriculture and solar don’t mix. However, livestock will still be present on the ranch,” the landowner said. “Instead of cattle my family will be raising sheep to control brush—and livestock will continue to graze the land that has sustained my family for generations.” The family is also excited by the potential to sell the cash-flow that they will receive once the solar projects become operational. They plan to expand and improve the original ranch by utilizing the 1031 exchange on the cash revenue. The family has also listed their ranch for carbon credits on the Landgate platform. “Landgate has afforded us opportunities that were not apparent when I was first researching ways to keep the ranch going,” the landowner concluded. LandGate, a data intelligence and marketplace for land and its resources, provided the data for this article—and provides a free and transparent marketplace for land resource deals to happen more efficiently. Landowners: LandGate provides free data for landowners to help you make better decisions about your land by determining its value when it comes to solar farm potential, wind farm potential, minerals, carbon credits, or any other resource. Find your land values now!
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