OTTAWA – A company is unhappy that negotiations about a proposed Putnam County wind farm were made public, and has threatened to downgrade the project.
Iberdrola Renewables, a Spain-based company with offices in the Philadelphia area, threatened to withdraw proposals made to the Putnam County Community Improvement Corp., terminate negotiations with the county commissioners, and downgrade the county project from “preferred wind energy project.”
Cooler heads may prevail, though. On Friday the company indicated in an e-mail that negotiations will continue.
“We still believe that the Leipsic area is a good site for a wind farm, and could have a tremendously positive impact on the community. As with any substantial, long-term investment, we are exploring ways to ensure that the tax liability for a project is predictable and competitive,” Paul Copleman, communication manager, said in an e-mail sent to The Courier.
Iberdola has proposed installing 75 wind turbines to generate 150 megawatts of electricity. The company has land under lease in Van Buren Township, which includes Leipsic, in the northeast corner of Putnam County.
The Putnam County commissioners have considered granting tax breaks to the company based on a state law passed in June and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland.
The bill exempts renewable energy companies from taxes on tangible personal property, which includes machinery and equipment. The bill also exempts real estate taxes on land used to generate wind, solar and other forms of “clean energy.” But real estate taxes are paid on leased land and easements.
The bill requires “payment in lieu of taxes” based on megawatts produced at the farm. Payments would be made to the township, Leipsic School District and the county.
To be eligible for the tax breaks the company must begin construction by Dec. 31, 2011 and be operational by Dec. 31, 2012, according to the state legislation. If not operational, the company would lose the tax credits.
The school board and township trustees agreed to a total $4,200 per megawatt payment for 15 years, or an annual payment of $630,000. The school district would get 72.9 percent, or $459,270; the county 15.3 percent, or $96,390; and the township 11.8 percent, or $74,340. The turbines have an anticipated life of 30 years. The agreement can be renewed.
But during a meeting Nov. 5, the commissioners had a telephone conversation with Tim Lang, an Iberdrola representative, about increasing the amount of payment in lieu of taxes. In the room with the commissioners was a representative of a weekly newspaper, who wasn’t identified to Lang. The Courier was not present.
The commissioners told Lang that provisions of state law outline larger payment amounts, such as $6,000 to $8,000 per megawatt.
The company has constructed a wind farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties, Commissioner Vince Schroeder said, with payments of $9,000 per megawatt. Putnam County should get the same amount, Schroeder and Commissioner Travis Jerwers told Lang.
When the discussion became public, the company accused the commissioners of “revealing confidential information” and threatened to downgrade the project.
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