Development of wind energy in Carroll County is possible and can benefit the county, landowners and consumers, speakers said Dec. 14 at a wind energy seminar. But one wind farm developer offered a cautionary note.
“It is not a cash cow,” said Bruce Papiech. “It can provide a lot of tax income, but if the tax is too much, it can cut off all projects.”
A test tower was erected this year near Lanark with the help of the Carroll County Economic Development Corporation and the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs, IIRA, at Western Illinois University.
The tower was placed on a farm owned by the city of Lanark south of the town. Data has been collected since June.
CCEDC Executive Director Dave Keiser said the preliminary data showed that wind development is viable in eastern Carroll County.
Speakers told of three- to five-year timelines for wind farm development. For it to occur, a variety of state and local permits are required, including county permits.
Carroll County Zoning Administrator Julie Yuswak said that the county’s rules require special-use permits for the towers, one permit per project or wind farm, not per tower as in nearby Stephenson County.
The County Board has the final say in granting of a permit, based on the recommendation of the County Zoning Board of Appeals.
Bart Macomber said that after viewing events in Stephenson County, he was concerned about a panel of citizens Â the zoning board Â conducting the hearing and making recommendations in what can be a “very litigious situation.”
He asked how counties prepared board members for the task.
“Yes, (zoning boards) used to be the good-old-boy way of getting along with your neighbor,” said Lee County Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel. He said Lee County has had three wind farms proposed and the third proposed is operating. One was abandoned and progress is being made on the second. “It’s now a courtroom scene.”
“In our county, they haven’t gotten much education in what they should or shouldn’t be doing,” said Julie Yuswak, Carroll County zoning administrator. “I don’t know how you address that.”
Yuswak said Carroll County’s legal advisor, the County State’s Attorney or his assistant, has been attending zoning hearings on controversial matters, and the support was helpful.
“It does help,” said Henkel.
In Lee County for assessments, farmland is “split off,” separated from wind generator sites. The wind energy companies are billed for the sites, but if they fail to pay the tax bills, the landowner is ultimately responsible for them because he owns the property, said Wendy Ryerson, Lee County assessor.
Tax rates differ greatly from county to county. In Lee County, the charge is $6,400 per megawatt and in Bureau, $25,000, according to Ryerson and Papiech.
The difference comes from whether the generator site is taxed as personal property or real estate. The issue has not been resolved in Carroll County, Supervisor of Assessments Vivian Eaton said.
It can become a matter of legal interpretation, an issue settled in court, according to Ryereson.
Eaton said Carroll County would also have to decide whether a wind energy development that extended across the county line would be assessed alike on both sides.
In addition to local taxes, developers must consider federal taxes, the speakers said. They said production tax credits are necessary for wind development. The federal incentive provides a 1.8 cent-per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for energy generated by wind and some other renewable sources.
“(If they are not extended, they) will stop it,” said Papiech. “(Developers) cannot take that risk.”
Approximately 100 individuals were invited to the seminar, according to Carroll County Farm Bureau Manager Chastity “Chas” Welch. The event was co-sponsored by the CCEDC, Farm Bureau, IIRA and USDA.
Approximately 30 individuals took advantage of the opportunity to hear:
-Roger Brown of the IIRA speak on the status of wind development in Illinois and wind farm ownership and
-Wes Slaymaker, a wind farm engineer, advise what to know as a developer and landowner.
-Papiech and his wife, Joyce Papiech, a marketing specialist, talk about their project near Sublette.
Interested in learning more about wind energy? Go to the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs Web site http://www.illinoiswind.org/ or contact Keiser of the CCEDC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Diane Komiskey – Prairie Advocate Reporter, (815) 493-2560 DKomiskey@prairie-advocate-news.com
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