December 31, 2019

Wind farm windfall varies widely in state

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer | Marion County Record | Dec. 31, 2019 |

Kansas counties are on their own when negotiating payment in lieu of taxes agreements with wind farm companies looking to install turbines in their counties, and payments vary widely from one wind farm to another.

The most recent figures available, from a 2017 study by Flatland, a Kansas City-based public broadcasting system, show payments to counties range from $1,000 to $6,500 per megawatt produced. Marion County’s agreements place it near the bottom for payments for wind farms in the state.

A recently-completed wind farm in the northern portion of the county, Diamond Vista, pays the county $900 per megawatt produced. Diamond Vista is owned by Enel Green Power.

Diamond Vista’s first payment in lieu of taxes to the county, made in December, was $269,325.

Additionally, Diamond Vista makes direct payments to the Hillsboro and Centre school districts, but company spokesman Matt Epting declined to say how much.

The county stands to receive $2,000 per megawatt from Expedition Wind for the first 10 years for a wind farm in southern Marion County, according to an agreement signed Nov. 19. Expedition Wind is owned by National Renewable Solutions.

Conditional use permits for a number of Expedition turbines were granted when Kansas law allowed lifetime tax exemption for wind farms. Payment on those turbines will be $2,500 per megawatt for years 10 through 15, then $5,000 per megawatt on those turbines starting the 16th year of the project.

Patrick Pelstring, CEO of National Renewable Solutions, said Expedition Wind will make all payments directly to the county, not separate payments to the three school districts in the wind farm’s area.

“We pay roughly the same percentage Diamond Vista is paying, and we were very specific that the county does pay the school districts,” Pelstring said.

The Flatland study rated the Spearville 2 wind farm in Ford County as the highest-paying agreement in the state. It pays the county just under $7,000 per megawatt. Spearville 2 is owned by Evergy.

Shooting Star wind farm in Kiowa County came in second, with a payment of about $6,500 per megawatt. Shooting Star is owned by the Exelon company.

Caney River Wind Producers in Elk County ranked third, with payments of just less than $5,000 per megawatt. Caney River Wind Producers is owned by Enel Green Power, the same company that owns Diamond Vista.

Enel’s Buffalo Dunes wind farm, located in portions of Grant, Haskell, and Finney counties, ranks as the fourth-highest paying wind farm, paying $4,600 per megawatt.

Smoky Hills Wind Farm in Lincoln and Ellsworth counties, also owned by Enel Green Power, pays $2,900 per megawatt.

Enel’s Cimarron Bend Energy wind farm in Clark County pays about $2,800 per megawatt.

American Wind Energy Association’s 2018 Annual Market Report, released in April, showed wind energy production in Kansas amounted to 36.4% of the total electricity produced in the state.

The report ranked Kansas fourth in wind generation and fifth in installed wind capacity.

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