What would a set of wind turbines in the Pe Ell area look like, financially, for Lewis County?
A handsome influx of tax revenue and minimal public service impacts, according to a consultant hired by the Lewis County Economic Development Council to study the issue.
The EDC hosted Eric Hovee, a Vancouver economic and development consultant and founder of E.D. Hovee and Company, LLC., at its general membership meeting Thursday morning at the Kit Carson Restaurant in Chehalis. Hovee reported on his study on the potential impacts of a wind generation facility in Lewis County.
The example used in the study was a 100-megawatt, 50-turbine setup, which would cost $230 million to build. The project would create 150 direct and indirect jobs for about a year, with an average salary of $94,000, Hovee said.
Once completed, the facility would directly and indirectly produce 23 jobs, at an average of $65,000 a year for the direct employees and the indirect positions paying an estimated $38,000 salary. Business revenues in Lewis County would increase by about $29 million a year.
“Operations at a wind farm are not employment-intensive,” he said. “The real strength is probably in the tax benefit to the community.”
The hypothetical project could raise the overall tax assessment of Lewis County by 3 percent, he explained, and triple the current valuation of the Pe Ell school and fire districts.
“This is an investment that has great opportunity. … at relatively minimal public service costs,” he added.
EDC Executive Director Bill Lotto said the organization has fielded several inquiries over the last year about the possibility of wind turbines, specifically in the West Lewis County area.
“We’ve had really strong interest expressed,” Lotto said. “We know there has been testing going on for quite a few years.”
The prospective project would also bring the potential for training programs with Centralia College, and could help the Lewis County Public Utilities District meet the requirement set forth by I-937 that, by 2015, 9 percent of its power should come from a renewable source.
“Energy is simply big business, and a tremendous opportunity for Lewis County,” he said.
Lotto said the Pe Ell area is one of at least three areas that have been looked at by outside companies as a potential site.
“We know that the Pe Ell area in general has been one area that has been looked at seriously in the county,” he said. A site west of the Winlock-Napavine area, and another just northeast of Centralia, are also in the mix.
“Clearly, we would not have done this study if we didn’t feel the whole subject was really, really serious,” he said. “But, to my knowledge, there is no agreement to go ahead with a specific site yet.”
By Aaron VanTuyl
For The Chronicle
13 June 2008
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