Construction at the $50 million Greenfield Wind Farm near Fairfield has been halted.
John Pimentel, president of San Francisco-based Foundation Windpower LLC, said construction at the 25-megawatt, 15-tower wind Greenfield facility was stopped after the first property tax bill for the 10-megawatt Fairfield Wind Farm came in two times higher than expected.
The Greenfield and Fairfield wind projects are seven miles north of Fairfield and adjacent to each other. The Fairfield wind farm was completed a year ago and is operational. Preparation for construction of the Greenfield project had just gotten underway this spring.
The estimated 2015 tax bill for the Fairfield Wind Farm is $323,569, according to the state Department of Revenue. If taxes are that high for the Greenfield project, Pimentel said, it won’t be feasible to proceed with construction.
“We’re trying very hard to get the project financed, but it won’t get built without the tax abatement,” Pimentel said.
Windpower is asking Teton County for a tax abatement for new or expanding businesses. If it receives a tax break, the company is cautiously optimistic it can move forward with the Greenfield wind farm, Pimentel said.
Teton County Commissioner Jim Hodgskiss said commissioners are taking public comments on abatement requests for both the Fairfield and Greenfield projects until June 25 and will make a decision after that.
Commissioners previously denied a request for an abatement for the Greenfield project, he said.
Windpower also is asking the Montana Department of Revenue to reconsider its valuation of the Fairfield project. The DOR has a cost, fair market and income approach to valuing property, Pimentel said. The value of the property is used in determining taxes.
Windpower believes the income approach makes more sense. In the first year, the department used the cost-based approach, he said.
Windpower also has learned that the wind is about 8.6 percent less that expectations at the Fairfield Wind Farm. Oil also has been leaking out of a turbine, Pimentel said. The turbines, manufactured by General Electric, are under warranty, he said.
As a result of the higher-than-expected tax bill and less-than-anticipated wind, Windpower now needs to correct the operating costs and refine the wind modeling and micro-siting of turbines for the Greenfield project, Pimentel said.
“We very much wold like to keep doing business in Montana and Teton County,” Pimentel said. “We’ve spent a lot of time and effort to get the Fairfield wind farm up and running, and we’d like to move forward with the Greenfield project.”
Windpower partnered with Montana-based WINData LLC, which is owned by Martin Wilde. Wilde has said previously that wind at the site is “perfect.” Wilde did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Windpower’s Pimentel would not comment on the status of the partnership.
Road work and planning for foundations had begun at Greenfield. It’s clear the project wouldn’t get the necessary $50 million in financing without a tax abatement, Pimentel said. As a result, construction was halted a few weeks ago.
Windpower is selling power generated at the Fairfield Wind Farm to NorthWestern Energy, the state’s largest utility. Windpower and NorthWestern also have a 25-year power purchase agreement for power generated at the Greenfield Wind Farm.
The lack of progress at the Greenfield project won’t affect NorthWestern because it has plenty of power from other wind projects, hydroelectric dams and coal-fired electricity, spokesman Butch Larcombe said.
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