HURON COUNTY – Exelon Corp. recently settled three years worth of wind turbine tax appeals, which officials hope may set a standard for hundreds of remaining appeals in Huron County.
The settled appeals are for disputed assessed values of 79 turbines in Bingham, Sheridan, Chandler, McKinley and Oliver townships, as submitted in a report to the Huron County Board of Commissioners this week.
Turbines outside of Huron County were also included in the settlement.
The value of nearly every standing turbine in Huron County is being appealed by various energy companies, leaving municipalities on the hook for potential refunds to wind companies.
The Exelon settlement is for 2013 through 2015, according to the report from the Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative (MREC), submitted by coordinator Carl Osentoski, executive director of the Huron County Economic Development Corp.
No appeals have been filed for 2016, he said.
“We’re anticipating none for 2017 as well,” Osentoski noted.
Exelon accepted the depreciation tables submitted by MREC, Osentoski said, and that’s a good sign that other wind developers might do so as well.
A tax tribunal judge also recently ruled in favor of MREC in the case of 66 turbines in Blumfield and Gilford Townships in Tuscola County, which is part of MREC, along with Huron, Sanilac, Mason and Gratiot counties.
Although NextEra is appealing the ruling, it bodes well for MREC, Osentoski said. It indicates that “he’s leaning in our direction at least on that issue.”
“The hearing judge found in our favor. Exelon settled using our trending tables. There’s some momentum there and that’s where we’re hoping to get this settled with the tax commission doing a modified depreciation table by the end of the year, so that in 2017, we don’t have this.”
The issue with NextEra has to do with a 1603 cash grant received by the company, Osentoski said.
NextEra is saying that if a wind park is worth $100 million, it would receive $30 million and is worth only $70 million, he said.
“(If) I build a house for $100,000 and I have a nice uncle named Sam. He writes me a check for $30,000. That doesn’t change the value of my house. It just means I have a wonderful uncle,” Osentoski said.
“We’re still working through that process. The interesting part in all of this is that NextEra, DTE (Energy) and Consumers (Power) have all hired the same tax attorney, which helps in streamlining the process,” he said.
“I think the fact that Exelon had settled and agreed to that is a major – that’s almost like a precedent,” Board Chairman John L. Bodis said.
“It’s not that simple,” Osentoski said. “But that’s what we’re hoping for. It’s a start.”
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