Critics of plans to build large-scale energy producing windmills in Stephenson County want officials to answer a number of significant questions about the project – including how much revenue they will generate for surrounding communities.
Currently, proposals for two wind farms are under consideration. Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy is seeking approval for a 35-unit
farm in Lancaster Township. Meanwhile, Freeport-based EcoEnergy wants to construct a 60-unit farm in Waddams Grove near Lena.
Some local residents view the wind towers as uninvited – and unwelcome – guests. For instance, Dakota resident Michael King said that the Lancaster project could keep him from enjoying his Dakota property.
The Lancaster Township wind-farm project would put turbines 1,900 feet to the east and 1,300 feet to the southeast of his 2-acre property. Though he’d like to thwart the development, King is not sure that is possible.
“I don’t know what sort of affect we could have to keep them from being built,” he said. “The (Stephenson County Board) is so convinced that these are a wonderful deal,” he said.
Stephenson County Board Zoning Administrator Terrance Groves said the projects, which have not been approved, would create construction jobs while generating property tax revenue for local taxing bodies. Groves said the turbines could generate at least $250,000 annually in new revenue.
Stephenson County Chief Assessment Officer Ronald Kane also estimates that the turbines could generate at least $250,000 in property tax revenue. But he added, “I really don’t know what the number’s going to be.”
Kane said the amount he quoted is equal to an annual payment in lieu of property taxes. Though it would depend on any agreement developers and affected taxing bodies reached. Proposed legislation, Illinois House Bill 380, calls for basing the value of wind turbines on their kilowatt production. Kane said he’s withholding any judgement.
“I need to kind to sit back and watch what the legislature is doing,” he said.
Dakota School District 201 would receive a majority of the proceeds, since all but one turbine would reside within the district, King said. District 201 Superintendent Wanda Herrmann said the district has received no information from the county. “We don’t have a lot of the answers we need,” she said.
Board members haven’t broached the subject, Herrmann said. She was unsure of how the revenue would affect the district.
“It would depend on how we would apply to our funds,” Herrmann said.
What’s the Value?
Other area counties have instituted methods to value wind turbines. Bureau County bases its assessment on the entire of cost of the turbine, while Lee County only bases the value on 30 percent of the cost. Kane said Lee County’s method is based on their contention that some of the turbine is considered personal property.
Rockford attorney Richard Porter represents 25 homeowners who live near the Waddams Grove project. Porter said the project could decrease property values by 30 to 40 percent, while the proposed homeowners protection agreement gives developers the right to block the sale of a neighboring property.
The turbines wouldn’t be silent neighbors, King said. “There are definitely sounds coming from these things,” he said. They really invade one’s space.
“It’s like having (the turbine) in your pocket practically,” he said.
King learned during a public meeting each turbine in the Lancaster Township project would generate $9,000 to $15,000 in property tax revenue. But, after studying his tax bill, King said only 2 percent of it satisfies general county obligations.
“I don’t know where the county, in general, will benefit,” he said.
Navitas Energy could receive nearly $3 million annually for 10 years. The energy company would receive 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour, King said. The turbines are set to generate 100 million kilowatts per hour. Participating landowners, who King said don’t usually occupy the property, would receive between $4,500 and $5,000 per turbine.
Attempts to contact Navitas Energy were unsuccessful.
By Jason Carson Wilson
11 February 2007
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