Oklahoma lawmakers are not alone in their ongoing budget struggles. Similar battles are being waged by county officials across the state.
There is an easy solution that could help on both fronts: Charge sales tax on wind turbines
Wind companies currently benefit from a sales tax exemption that keeps much-needed revenue away from Oklahoma and counties where wind farms are built.
The average turbine costs about $2 million. One turbine would generate about $90,000 in sales tax revenue for the state of Oklahoma, which has a statewide 4.5-cent tax, and $7,000 for Garfield County, which has a .35-cent tax.
California-based Infinity Renewables has announced plans for a 250-megawatt wind farm in eastern Garfield County. The company hasn’t released much information about the project, dubbed Armadillo Flats, but it could include up to 125 turbines.
The Armadillo Flats project would generate up to $11.25 million in sales tax revenue for Oklahoma and $875,000 for Garfield County if it has 125 turbines, but that wind farm is just a small piece of the wind development planned for this area.
Garfield County could be home to an additional 735 turbines, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. That many turbines would generate more than $5.1 million in sales tax revenue for the county.
Other Northwest Oklahoma counties would earn between $10,000 and $40,000 per turbine in sales tax revenue from future development. Grant County could generate as much as $11 million from as many as 450 new turbines. Alfalfa County is expected to see as many as 88 new turbines, which would bring in about $3.5 million. Woods County could earn almost $1.9 million from the development of 189 turbines. Major County could receive $1.1 million if 44 turbines are built there.
The economic impact of future wind development would be even greater on the state of Oklahoma, if wind companies paid sales tax. Oklahoma is expected to have 750 new wind turbines come online this year, according to Southwest Power Pool data. That would provide as much as $67 million to help lawmakers close this year’s budget gap.
Future development is expected to exceed 10,000 more turbines, according to FAA records, providing an ongoing boost to Oklahoma’s sales tax collection.
These companies, which come to Oklahoma to collect our wind to provide electricity to customers in other states, should pay sales taxes here.
I pay sales tax on the things I buy. You do too.
Please call your lawmakers and tell them it’s time for wind companies to do the same.
Cliff Branan is executive director of the Windfall Coalition, a group of concerned citizens dedicated to ending wind subsidies so Oklahoma can spend its tax revenue on core government services.