January 25, 2022

Piatt County wind-farm project could be boon for area school districts

By Steve Hoffman | The News-Gazette | January 25, 2022 | www.news-gazette.com

MONTICELLO – Additional details are emerging on the proposed Goose Creek Wind project in Piatt County as developer Apex Clean Energy touts the project to area school boards, including projections that most of the turbines would be located within the Blue Ridge school district.

The company hopes to file the necessary special-use permit requests with the county in three to six months, with the potential to break ground by the end of 2022.

The project has shifted north from original proposals. As currently drawn, about 45 of the estimated 60 turbines would likely be in the Blue Ridge district, although the locations are not final. As it stands, Blue Ridge would net an estimated $35 million in real-estate tax revenue over 30 years as a result of the project, Apex officials said.

Over the same time period, it would generate an estimated $9.5 million for DeLand-Weldon schools, $3.4 million for Monticello schools and $10.5 million for Piatt County.

Apex spokesman Josh Hartke said the project has moved slightly north partially due to interest from property owners.

“We have a lot of heavy landowner interest there,” Hartke said.

How many turbines will it take to complete the proposed 300-megawatt wind farm depends on the capacity of each unit, but in a presentation to the Monticello school board, Hartke gave a rough estimate of 60, saying it will take fewer than it would have a few years ago.

“We haven’t made a final decision on exactly what turbine we will be installing at these,” he told board members.

“Five years ago, they were installing 2-megawatt turbines,” he said. “Now the industry is 4, 5 and 6 (megawatts). So, larger turbines means fewer, but that does not affect the revenue, which is based on the megawatts produced, not how many turbines are out there.

“If we build 5-megawatt turbines, the math works out to about 60 turbines, give or take,” he added. “You usually overbuild by one or two to have some extra there.”

He estimated five of those turbines would be within the Monticello school district. As currently laid out, about eight to 10 would be in DeLand-Weldon, with about 45 within the boundaries of Blue Ridge.

How much electricity each turbine generates also depends on height and the sustained wind speed where it is placed.

The Apex spokesman said the firm could file necessary special-use permits with Piatt County as soon as this spring.

“We’ve pretty much secured the land; we kind of have a good idea of where the project is going to be. We’ve got a lot of our studies done,” he said. “That means we’re probably going to apply for permits in quarter two, maybe quarter three of this year, and then, hopefully if that all moves fairly quickly, begin construction by the end of the year.”

Tax dollars would start to flow when electricity from the project goes onto the grid.

Monticello Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said while he has no formal stance on wind power itself, he supports increased land values in the county, which lead to more revenue for taxing bodies.

“I’m just in favor of ways to increase EAV (equalized assessed valuation) that doesn’t increase the property tax on a house,” Zimmerman said.

Hartke estimated the project will generate about $77 million total in real-estate tax revenue over 30 years but thought extensions were likely, which could keep turbines producing power for up to 50 years.

While it would be a new source of revenue for to taxing bodies, for school districts, the increase could be partially offset by a drop in state aid, which takes into account a district’s local revenue in its funding formula. That is not as much of an issue for Monticello, which due to corporate-replacement tax revenue relies less on state funding than most school districts.

Approved special-use permits from the county would be needed for each turbine in order for the project to proceed.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/01/25/piatt-county-wind-farm-project-could-be-boon-for-area-school-districts/