Wind farm projects in Woodford County may be delayed unless the state passes a law specifying how they will be taxed.
County Administrator Greg Jackson said local government doesn’t have all the facts needed to continue approving wind farm projects. He recommended the county board delay approval of future wind farms until potential tax revenue is set in stone.
“We can’t make sound economic development decisions as to what we want in given areas if we don’t have all the facts about the revenue that will be coming in,” said Jackson.
House Bill 380, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, has the potential to set statewide standards on wind farm taxation, but only if a compromise can be reached, said Jackson.
The debate around the legislation is focused on setting an amount to be taxed per megawatt. Proposed figures have ranged between $3,500 and $9,000. Using the 79-turbine Benson Wind Farm as an example, that range would bring anywhere from $700,000 to $1.5 million annually for local taxing bodies.
Without some assurance on the exact amount of tax revenue, local government is expected to make economic development decisions based on a moving target. Jackson wants that target to stop.
“The dollar amount is irrelevant,” said Jackson. “We just need to know the method so we can calculate what the revenue is going to be.” The combination of potential delays by county boards, as well as an approaching deadline for federal incentives, might bring the wind energy industry to the table to agree on a price, he said. Otherwise, projects could be stalled.
“I can’t speak for other counties, but that potential exists in Woodford County where we have four projects on the burner,” said Jackson.
Turbines in the air
— Benson project: The 79-turbine project owned by Spanish-based Iberdola has been approved by the Woodford County Board and is set for construction in 2008. It will not be delayed by the legislative debate.
— El Paso project: The 40-turbine project being developed by Navitas Energy will be reviewed by the Zoning Board of Appeals next week and the Woodford County Board in June.
— Minonk project: The proposed 100-turbine project by Navitas remains in the planning stages with the company securing land leases. It is unlikely to be constructed before 2010.
— Carlock/McLean project: The 100-turbine White Oak Wind Energy Center owned by Invenergy Wind LLC sits mostly in McLean County with 10-15 turbines in Woodford County near Carlock. The Zoning Board of Appeals will schedule a hearing in July or August for the Woodford County portion.
By J.W. Shults
20 May 2007