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Bureau County accepts $2 million wind farm decommissioning plan

PRINCETON – What happens when wind farms change ownership, owners want to alter turbines or, eventually retire them altogether? There are a lot of unknowns.

Even though Bureau County residents again voiced concerns about a letter of credit, Bureau County Board member Steve Sondgeroth made a motion to approve the acceptance of Big Sky Wind Farm decommissioning funds totaling approximately $2 million.

However, Ed Gerdes of Princeton still is concerned and thought performance bonds may have been a better option in case these turbines spread throughout the northern part of the county had to come down.

“Geronimo Energy sent out a newsletter saying that part of their decommissioning was either going to be a letter of credit, cash escrow, or performance bonds,” said Gerdes. “So they’re saying bonds can be used. We’re really concerned because we don’t want our neighbors in Ohio to be responsible for taking down these turbines and paying any taxes that aren’t paid.”

He continued that EverPower Wind Co. (the formal owners of Big Sky) that in every 10-15 years the turbines need to be repurposed, but the problem is that these now 400-foot turbines would be replaced with 500-foot turbines.

“From what I read, you can’t put a 500-foot turbine on a 400-foot base,” Gerdes explained. “It’s not feasible to pour another new base to put a new turbine up. In that case I don’t think you’re looking at more than 15 years before these have to come down.”

With that said Gerdes is concerned, if the letter of credit were to fail, the finances would fall on the taxpayers of Bureau County, but Michael Speerschneider representing EverPower Wind Co. said the $2 million in the letter of credit is expected to increase over the next 20 years to approximately $3 million.

The letter of credit is very common in the wind farm industry he says.

“The letter of credit is a contract between the county and the bank,” explained Speerschneider. “We provide the collateral for the bank, but they back the letter of credit and devise what kind of collateral they need. Simply, the bank has the honor to pay the county if and when (problems arise). It doesn’t matter if our collateral we posted is no longer good. The bank is taking that risk and they will come after us if they can, but they still have to pay the county. That’s the biggest benefit of the letter of credit is that there is no discussion about that.”