Column: Turbines look good when compared to fuel plants
Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 2, 2017
My Point of View, By John Forman
I like wind power. Wind as a fuel is plentiful in our area and generates electricity without generating air pollutants. Wind is a win-win for the land owner, the county residents and the state.
In response to concerns about climate change, the state of Minnesota has passed legislation requiring about 30 percent of power in the state must come from renewable sources by the year 2020. Wind is the best choice for our part of the state; it would take 3,000 acres of solar panels to generate the same power as the wind farm that is being planned.
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The county just passed an up to 4 percent increase in property taxes; much of this is due to reduced farmland property values over the past couple of years due to the reduced crop prices farmers receive. We expect city and school district tax levies to go up also. This per acre reduction in land value explains why all acreages of similar size in the county have gone down in value and not just those near wind turbines. The Bent Tree Wind Farm is expected to contribute $800,000 per year to the property tax pool, and the new wind farm is expected to produce around $400,000 per year. Remember these are per year numbers and can be multiplied by 20-year contracts to show the true impact on taxes (over $20 million). These property taxes are paid by Alliant Energy (Bent Tree) and by Xcel Energy (proposed wind farm). These are both well-established and state regulated companies so I would expect there will be no problem in collecting these taxes.
The income from the payments to property owners for windmills and access roads may be the difference between making a living farming and having to sell the farm. Income for 42 wind generators at an average cost of $8,500 per turbine comes to $357,000 per year multipled by 20 years and that comes to over $7 million. Much of this new income is spent locally to help the economy. The local economy will also get a boost with many construction jobs sparking local rental housing, campgrounds, hotels and restaurants. Local contractors will get their share of road work, foundation construction, tile line repairs and many more. A big bonus is the estimated 10 full-time jobs that the wind farm will create; some will be graduates of the local Riverland College’s renewable energy maintenance program. The townships where these windmills are receive a portion of the property taxes generated. A representative from Hartland Township spoke at a county board meeting of using this new money to fix roads and bridges and help pay for a new road grader. To my surprise, a representative of one of the townships in the proposed wind farm area actually said they do not need a larger tax base, as they get free money from the state in the form of grants. She then thanked the grant writer instead of the taxpayers who provide the money. There is no such thing as free money — it is all taxpayer money.
Please go to https://mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities/Docket.html?Id=34728 to get more information on how residences, (land owners do not have to sign up for towers), powerlines, microwave tower lanes, bird migration patterns, wildlife areas and many other things are taken into consideration in the tower-locating process. The new wind farm has larger setbacks than required by the state of Minnesota. These setbacks meet the requirements set by Freeborn County in September 2015. Attempts to change setback requirements after project planning has been completed would send a clear message to other businesses and investors that Freeborn County cannot be counted on for a stable business climate. The original proposed wind farm would have had 100 wind turbines in Freeborn County, but due to restrictive rules and landowner resistance that number is now 42. That’s quite a compromise to meet local objections, and cost the county over half of their share of potential tax revenue. Some people do not want to look at a windmill; I actually think they look good, especially compared to looking at a fossil-fuel powered power plant.
John Forman is a member of the Freeborn County Republican Party.