December 28, 2013

Los Fresnos schools offer tax break to wind farm

By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD | Valley Morning Star | December 28, 2013 |

LOS FRESNOS – A clean energy project will bring 80 wind turbines to the area with the potential to power 55,000 average homes and create jobs.

The Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District says the district has approved a deal with the developer for a significant, eight-year tax break incentive.

The developer, Apex Clean Energy, says the project is called Cameron Wind. The developer will pay taxes on $10 million worth of the project for eight years, while the actual value is more than $200 million.

In return, the developer will pay the district payments in lieu of taxes.

“Over the life of the agreement, the Los Fresnos CISD will receive about $7.7 million and the company will save approximately $8.5 million,” according to the district’s website.

The project to build 80 wind turbines will begin next year, said Ronnie Zamora, coordinator of the communications and marketing office for the school district.

Turbines will be built on more than 7,000 acres on both sides of Farm-to-Market Road 1847 between FM 510 and the Arroyo Colorado. The land belongs to private landowners who will charge rent for use of their property.

Karlis Povisils, director of project development at Apex, said construction would begin no sooner than late summer.

“Wind farm construction typically takes about nine months to complete,” he said. “We anticipate the construction of the wind farm to directly employ 200 full-time workers. We estimate that about seven local, full-time workers will be directly employed to maintain and operate the project throughout its lifetime.”

Povisils said he wasn’t sure if the 200 workers would be hired locally.

“There is no simple rule of thumb to answer this question, as every project varies,” he said. “As we get closer to construction, we will have a better sense of how it will work at Cameron Wind.”

Nor was he certain who would be hired to keep the turbines operational.

“The majority of those who are hired to maintain and operate the project will most likely live in the community, as these are long-term, full-time jobs,” he said.

He pointed out that construction and operation of a project like the wind farm helps create new local jobs through indirect means.

“As more money is spent in local businesses, those businesses are able to hire additional staff, invest in new services or make improvements to their facilities, all of which help support the creation of jobs in the community,” he said.

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