Wind farms are springing up in and around Marshall County.
First was the Flat Water Wind Farm with 40 turbines built in 2010 by RES Americas in southern Richardson County, Neb. and northern Nemaha County.
Next was the Steele Flats Wind Project, a Next Era Energy wind farm near Diller, Neb., with 44 turbines, which began construction this past summer. It became operational in October.
Now RPM Access of Desoto, Iowa, is planning to build a 30-turbine wind farm near Beattie. Preliminary road work has begun and construction is to begin this month with a target completion date of December of 2014.
The Marshall Wind Project is to cover 7,300 acres and is to generate 75 megawatts of electricity. RPM Access project developer George Black said it would be located in three townships: Rock, Guittard and Murray.
The company started its search for land to place the turbines up near Summerfield a few years ago.
“There was an antennae array up on Arrowhead Road. We had to stay 3.5 nautical miles away from that, so we moved south,” Black said.
The wind farm will straddle U.S. Highway 36, extending from just south of the railroad tracks north of Beattie along Kansas Highway 99 down to just south of Matador Road in Rock Township.
Thirty-two area landowners will receive payment for use of their land, but because wind farms are exempt from property tax under Kansas law the company will not pay Marshall County any taxes. Instead, at the Oct. 21 Marshall County commissioner meeting, RPM Access project director Matt Garwood and Black agreed to make payments in lieu of taxes to the county.
The company will pay the county $377,400 the first year and $300,000 a year for nine years after the first year. The company expects the wind turbines to produce energy for the next 30 years.
Garwood and Black also assured commissioners in an agreement that the company would maintain and fix any bridges or roads affected by construction.
Beattie area residents can get a general idea of what to expect from Diller area residents who have recently experienced a wind farm’s construction.
“The construction process has been real good for us,” said Diller area resident and Diller-Odell Board of Education member Chad Lottman. “They were a really nice outfit. They really tried to do a good job for our community and as a lifelong community member I appreciate that. I’m also on the school board and the local school district will be getting a financial boost from the wind farms so that is a positive as well.”
Diller-Odell school district superintendent Mike Meyerle said he has yet to see anything formally from the state of Nebraska, but it is his understanding that the school district will be receiving a check from the Nebraska Department of Revenue for the payment in lieu of taxes that the state receives from the Diller area wind farm.
“In January, my appraiser will go and assess a value for the cement pads that the wind turbines are built on. The wind farm will pay a real estate tax to the county for those cement pads and a mega-watt capacity tax will be determined by the Nebraska Department of Property Taxes and that will be an in lieu of tax paid to the state,” said Patty Milligan, Gage County Assessor.
One negative aspect mentioned about the massive wind turbines is the visual obstruction they cause, said Diller area resident Jan Parker.
“I think they’re neat. I haven’t really heard anybody bad mouthing them. Some people have said that if they aren’t in operation in a few years they will look bad,” she said.
President of the State Bank of Odell Jim Stanosheck said construction of the Diller area wind farm required lots of workers to temporarily move to the area. Local businesses have benefitted from fuel, food and other sales.
“I think Beatrice really benefitted from the project considering that all the concrete for the project was contracted out of Beatrice,” he said.
Marshall County businesses can expect a similar spike in business when wind farm construction workers begin arriving this month.
Beattie area resident Rob Olmsted, a local realtor, said RPM Access is receiving a generally positive welcome to the Beattie area.
I’m not really hearing a whole lot of negative comment because this company started looking at this area four or five years ago. I think they’ve worked with landowners and found the ones that are willing to have the wind farm on their land.
“I would say if you’ve got willing landowners it will be viewed better than if you are using eminent domain,” Olmsted said. “When it comes to wind energy. I’d much rather have something like this here than a coal plant or a nuclear plant.”
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