The proposal for a large wind farm in Knox County is good news for its tax base as long as landowners are protected, the County Board chairman says.
In the past few months, wind farm developer and operator Invenergy of Chicago has doubled its Bishop Hill Wind Energy Center to a goal of 532 turbines, with 266 turbines each in Knox and Henry counties. The wind farm would be complete in three to five years, generating 800 megawatts of electricity and costing up to $1.6 billion, said Joel Link, director of business development for Invenergy. If complete, it would be one of the largest land-based wind farms in the world, he said.
The Knox County side of the project, which has yet to be permitted, is a year behind the Henry County side, where turbine construction will begin this year. Originally, most of the wind farm was to be in Henry County, but the project grew in Knox County because of landowner interest and available space on transmission lines.
“From a tax base standpoint, I think it’s wonderful,” said Allen Pickrel, Knox County Board chairman. “It brings tax dollars to the community and is another form of energy.”
His primary concern is in the details of landowner contracts with the company. For example, he wants to know more about who is responsible for property taxes on the turbines.
“I want to make sure everything is done right to protect the people in our county,” Pickrel said.
Protecting farmers and increasing their profitability is of interest to the Knox County Farm Bureau, the largest county organization representing farmers and landowners.
“The Farm Bureau always is interested in the farmer’s right to profit and looking for any option to do that,” said Josh Gibb, county Farm Bureau manager.
Wind farm developers are paying between $4,000 and $8,000 per turbine, which require up to one acre for the turbine and a road leading to it. The profit is attractive to landowners, and the local interest prompted the Farm Bureau to organize a Wind Energy Forum last year.
Several landowners have stopped in at the Farm Bureau office asking for guidance and information about contracts from Invenergy. Gibb has been recommending that landowners research the opportunity and hire an attorney.
“These contracts are so detailed,” Gibb said. “They need professionals to look at them.”
By Joanie Stiers
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