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Wind farm company seeks tax abatement

Howard County officials are being asked to consider a 10-year tax abatement for the proposed wind farm in the eastern portions of the county.

E-on Climate & Renewables has proposed expanding the Wildcat Wind Farm project into Howard County. Currently, work is taking place on phase one of the project in Madison and Tipton counties, where 10-year abatements have been approved.

Phase one of the project in Madison and Tipton counties will generate 200 megawatts of electricity through the placement of 125 wind turbines. Phase two will be located in Howard and Grant counties, with up to 65 turbines generating 100 megawatts of power. Phase three is also in Howard and Grant counties, generating up to 120 megawatts of electricity with up to 125 turbines, and phase four will generate between 200 and 300 megawatts of power through the placement of up to 200 wind turbines in Tipton County.

If all four phases are completed, the Wildcat Wind Farm is expected to generate between 620 and 720 megawatts of electricity.

Construction of the first turbines is expected to begin in Madison and Tipton counties in July.

A megawatt provides electrical energy to 1,000 homes. An average commercial generating plant produces between 700 and 900 megawatts of electricity.

The Howard County Council Tuesday passed a preliminary economic revitalization designation for the project. A public hearing has been set for 4 p.m. June 26.

If approved, the tax abatement would cover both real estate and personal property.

Andy Melka, project manager for E-on, said the two phases in Howard County will result in a $250 million to $300 million investment in Howard County.

“This adds assessed value to the county, which helps lower property taxes,” he said. “The abatement is necessary to give the project the best chance of moving forward.”

The agreement with E-on contains language that makes sure the assessment base is protected, said Jamie Shepherd, Howard County assessor.

“We asked E-on not to file depreciation of the wind turbines, which would lower the assessed value,” she said. “We don’t want them to add bonus depreciation for federal tax purposes, which would lower the value of the turbines.”

Shepherd said E-on has agreed that if it files for the additional appreciation, the company will make a payment in lieu of taxes to the county in the amount of the difference in the tax collection.

The payment in lieu of taxes will be distributed to all the impacted government entities, she said.

Council President Richard Miller said there are specific start dates for the two phases of the wind energy project in Howard County.

If those start dates are not met, the agreements between E-on and Howard County will expire, he said.