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Wind energy developer asks for sales tax break

A wind energy developer may be getting some state sales tax breaks if local officials opt to expand an enterprise zone that stretches from Ottawa to Grundy County.

During a special Ottawa City Council meeting Tuesday, commissioners approved placing on file an ordinance that would expand the zone to include about 225 acres for a 66-wind turbine farm south of Ottawa. The project is headed up by Chicago-based Invenergy.

The only discussion during the brief meeting entailed Mayor Robert Eschbach noting he would not vote on the matter as he has represented Invenergy in the past as an attorney.

A representative with Invenergy was not present during the special meeting. However, a manager with Invenergy made a presentation to the council in September about the proposed wind farm and the request for the enterprise zone expansion. The turbines will be built south of Ottawa in Brookfield, Allen and Grand Rapids townships.

The enterprise zone extends east to Grundy County, and at some points includes very skinny strips of land. The enterprise zone, by state statute, can only expand another 3 square miles. If the expansion for Invenergy is approved, the amount of land needed would be .35 square miles, leaving 2.65 square miles for future expansion.

City Engineer Dave Noble said after the meeting the incentive is Invenergy would not have to pay state sales tax on construction costs, which can be significant. There is no cost to the city for the expansion.

Noble also noted the city has contacted the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, as well as the state’s Department of Energy, with Invenergy’s proposal, and the state is in favor of such incentives provided for alternative energy sources.

An Invenergy representative previously told the council the project would provide between 150 to 200 construction jobs. The turbines are expected to power between 350 to 400 homes, and the project is expected to cost between $140 to $150 million.

By Tammy Sloup

The Times

10 October 2007