Wind farm development has a green light in Woodford County after the state passed legislation governing how taxes on the turbines are assessed, which could bring local taxing bodies $5 million in revenue.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s partial veto of House Bill 664 – including provisions on wind farm taxation – was overridden last week. The legislation, which took effect immediately, will require wind turbine owners to pay $9,000 per megawatt generated.
“It is perfect,” Woodford County Administrator Greg Jackson said. “It is ideal; $9,000 per megawatt is exactly what we wanted.”
Towers planned for Woodford County would generate 2 megawatts each, bringing in $18,000 each. That amount will decrease slightly annually based on depreciation.
The four wind farms now proposed for Woodford County could bring in $5 million – $3.5 million of which would be directed to school districts, Jackson said.
Woodford County had delayed approval of any wind farms while waiting for the state to set tax assessment rules.
Jackson said $9,000 per megawatt will bring about the same amount of revenue as previously planned assessments.
Five years for evaluation
A sunset clause in the legislation also requires it to be renewed in the year 2012.
“The sunset clause allows us to have five years and evaluate if it is working or not,” Jackson said. “This is brand new for everybody in the state of Illinois and will need to be evaluated.”
Whether that $5 million comes in as added revenue or is offset by reduced taxes on other properties remains to be seen.
Each individual taxing body will have to decide on a tax levy. If levies remain at current levels, taxpayers would see the $5 million offset a portion of their current tax burden.
However, that tactic would not bring in extra revenue. Boards seeking more money will have to increase their levies to take advantage of the new assessment rules.
The county’s first proposed wind farm near Benson will not make its Oct. 27 deadline to obtain building permits, Zoning Administrator John Hamann said.
The Benson Wind Farm – started by Minneapolis-based Navitas and later purchased by Spanish company Iberdrola – was planned to include 79 turbines. Hamann said the company has indicated it plans to increase the proposed height of the towers and will therefore have to reapply for special-use permits.
In addition to the 79-turbine Benson project, Navitas and Iberdrola are partnering on a 50-turbine expansion to the north of the Benson project.
Project near El Paso
The County Board will review another Navitas project near El Paso at its November meeting.
The El Paso project proposes 40 turbines but faces two hurdles: There is no road agreement with township officials, and the El Paso City Council is opposed to any wind farm development within 1.5 miles of its city limits.
Another project by Navitas is in the early stages. The company has sought a permit to place a wind-test tower near Minonk with plans to install a 100-turbine wind farm south and east of Minonk.
Chicago-based Invenergy has proposed a wind farm along the Woodford and McLean county line, but it is being held up by a lawsuit. Only 10 to 15 of the proposed turbines would be in Woodford County.
By J.W. Shults
19 October 2007
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