AUSTIN – Nearly every time the wind blows in Mower County, property taxes drop.
Hundreds of wind turbines produce power in the county and each time a kilowatt is produced, the producer pays a wind generation tax that has totaled $8,938,356 over the past 11 years. Most of that tax goes to the county, which uses it to offset property taxes. By law, the turbines themselves aren’t taxed, just the electricity they produce, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.
A lesser amount of the tax money goes to the townships where turbines are built. The townships can use it for whatever they want, he said. Schools get nothing.
Power produced last year is expected to bring $1.235 million into the county this year, he said. That equals about 6.6 percent of the $18,615,000 levy. Without the wind money, the county would have to cut its budget or raise taxes.
A public misperception is that the money is earmarked for something specific.
“It’s not just sitting there being squirreled away for the future,” he said.
When the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm goes online, probably later this year, it will generate another $400,000 in production tax money.
“That will be a nice chunk of change,” Oscarson said.
The board can decide to put that into the general budget or set it aside for something such as roads, he said.
Commissioner Tony Bennett said he likes using the money to offset property taxes.
But he also said that “right now, there are a lot of problems with roads and bridges” so some rural people might like to see any extra money, such as the Pleasant Valley money, go into that.
Bennett said he likes wind power.
“I’d like to see all sources of renewable energy,” he said.
The money Mower has received puts it in second place among all Minnesota counties for production tax dollars received in the past 11 years, following only the $9,465,679 Murray County collected. In the past several years, Mower has been number one in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Dodge, Steele and Winona counties have collected a total of $499,064 in those 11 years.
Wind energy production tax
Dollars Minnesota counties received in wind energy production taxes over the past 11 years:
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