EUREKA – The blades on the 75 wind turbines included in Woodford County’s first wind farm began turning on schedule Dec. 6, following six months of construction on the Minonk Wind Farm.
“All the turbines are up and running, and all the inspections have been completed,” zoning assistant Faustin Jackson told the county’s Conservation, Planning and Zoning Committee on Dec. 11.
Road and Bridge Chairman Barry Logan said there is still work to be done on restoring the county roads as part of the wind farm agreement, but it will be postponed until more favorable spring weather.
Soon after the blades started spinning, Woodford County received a check from Minonk Wind Farm developer Gamesa for $2.475 million.
“We have received the check, and it has been deposited,” Woodford County Treasurer Melissa Andrews confirmed to the county’s Finance Committee on Dec. 10.
The funds represent payment for the wind farm being part of a high impact business zone and receiving tax benefits from that classification. This is the second payment the county received for that incentive. Earlier this year, Gamesa issued the first payment of $525,000, along with $369,875 in payment for special use permits, addressing fees and storm water control.
The $2.475 million in revenue was included in the fiscal budget that began on Dec. 1 and helped shore up a projected deficit. The county’s Finance Committee recommended using the excess revenue from the one-time payment to build up reserves.
Officials from Gamesa and Algonquin presented a ceremonial check to the county board representing the $2.475 million at the county board meeting on Dec. 18.
In presenting the check, Gamesa Chief Development Officer Jiddu Tapia said, among the many wind farms the company has developed, the Minonk Wind Farm is by far the largest.
“This is one everyone knows and remembers,” Tapia told the board.
He acknowledged there had been “bumps in the road” throughout the wind farm development process, but the county and developers were able to work through them.
Canadian-based Algonquin Power is now the major owner of the wind farm. April Meyer, Algonquin’s Manager of Technical Services told the board the Minonk Wind Farm represents a milestone for her company as well.
“Algonquin has now become a wind company that has some hydro assets,” Meyer said of her company’s former portfolio of only hydro assets. Algonquin also purchased two other wind farms in the United States in a package deal with Gamesa.
Yet to be determined is the assessment on the wind turbines that will bring additional revenue from real estate taxes to the county, Fieldcrest School District and Minonk Township.
Woodford County Supervisor of Assessments Mary Bell said the state has set guidelines about how the towers are to be assessed, but she is still working on gathering information about it.
“I’m still checking into to it,” Bell said.
Property values for assessment purposes are usually determined by what is sitting on the ground as of Jan. 1, but Bell said assessments for wind turbines are different. She also said she has yet to determine how to assess the towers for the three weeks they will be commercially operating in December.
Fieldcrest Superintendent Josh Olsen said the school district will likely receive additional revenue next year due to a probable increase in the total Equalized Assessed Valuation attributed to the turbines. However, he said some of that revenue will be offset by a loss in general state aid from the state, due to the way the state aid formula works.
Even though the work on the Minonk Wind Farm is mostly complete, the CP&Z Committee still has work to do to suggest revisions to the Minonk Wind Farm Decommissioning Report.
The report is a condition of the special use permits and is supposed to be reviewed about every three years to make sure the wind farm owner has enough money reserved to decommission the turbines when they are no longer needed. CP&Z Chairman Doug Huser said the plan already needs to be updated if the date of May 2009 on the copy he has is correct.
“They need to update the plan in accordance with the agreement,” Huser said at a committee meeting on Tuesday.
Huser said one of the problems with the report is that the owner uses salvage value to help offset the cost of decommissioning. Huser believes materials in the turbines have little or no salvage value. He also said certain materials that would cost money to get rid of, like hydraulic oil are not mentioned in the report. Committee member Andy Rokey also noted that salvage value for various materials can change dramatically in a short period of time, which would change the numbers.
Huser said he does not yet know the legal parameters of updating the report.
“I have no idea what we can do to it,” Huser said. “That’s something (Woodford County State’s Attorney) Mr. Minger will have to determine.”
After the county board meeting on Dec. 18, Tapia said his company will continue developing wind farms in the United States, and he would even like to see another wind farm in Woodford County.
“There is good wind here,” Tapia said.
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