Two economic impact reports for Reno County have been released regarding the proposed wind farm by NextEra. NextEra provided input data and paid the FHSU Docking Institute to produce their report showing a net benefit to Reno County of $133 million. Reno County used NextEra’s input data and paid WSU to produce an economic analysis showing a benefit of $21 million. Both used questionable input data.
Land lease payments to landowners are $50 million over 30 years, an average of $19,000 per tower per year. According to Landmark Dividend, tower rental payments totaled $222 million in the U.S. in 2017 and were on average up to $8,000 per tower per year. At $9,500 per tower per year, $25 million should be more accurate. These reports also ignore that 32 of the 88 towers are owned by out-of-county landowners, reducing this input number 36.4 percent, to $16 million.
Operational payroll is $35 million for 17 employees. NextEra’s new Pratt wind farm employs 12 “local” employees for 106 towers (nine each). Relatively, 88 towers midway between Hutch and Wichita would employ 10 “local” workers. Assuming five live in Wichita, $35 million should be reduced to $10.3 million.
The Docking report limits construction payroll to per diem of $2.8 million, whereas the WSU report includes wages totaling $8.4 million. Construction wages should be excluded as these employees will be brought in. The $2.8 million per diem should be split between Reno and Sedgwick counties.
The Docking report relies heavily on the assertion stated in the Reno County Comprehensive Plan that rural Reno County population will decline 19.6 percent from 2017 to 2040. The SE Quadrant is growing. Falsely inputting a declining population eliminates negative tax consequences.
Using these adjusted inputs would exponentially reduce the Docking study and reduce the WSU study to a loss.
Harry Lobmeyer, ag economist