It’s easy to list the reasons that rural communities love
wind — they provide a new
source of tax revenue for counties and townships, lease
payments for rural landowners, new
jobs and economic development in areas that need it most, and they help to fund
community projects and schools.
Now, a new report
from Moody’s Investors Service highlights how wind projects are boosting tax
revenues and helping erase debt in rural communities that host them.
Wind Projects Improve Rural County Finances
A utility-scale wind farm is a multi-million dollar project
that provides a significant new source of tax revenue for the counties and
townships through the Wind Energy Production Tax. Since 99 percent
of wind projects are built in rural America, wind farms provide relief for small, rural towns that need it most.
According to Moody’s, wind
farms have improved the finances in more than 400 counties in 41 states, which
is more than double the counties that had wind farms 10 years ago. This new
source of revenue provides funding for local
infrastructure projects like improving roads and bridges, community projects and schools, or
holding the line (or even cutting) property taxes paid by citizens.
Let’s dive into two rural counties in the Midwest that have
benefitted from wind farms — Adair County, Iowa and Jackson County, Minnesota.
Wind Farms Have Increased Adair County, Iowa’s Tax Base by 30 Percent
Not far from the famous covered bridges of Madison County
lies Adair County, Iowa. Adair is a rural county near Des Moines with a population
of 7,054. Only a decade ago, the county was facing hard
economic times. The declining tax base meant there wasn’t enough money for
the county to maintain its roads and bridges. That spelled trouble for local
farmers who relied on local infrastructure to handle large machinery and
truckloads of grain. Today, thanks to the influx of revenue from wind
development, roads have been improved and a new bridge makes travel safe for
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Adair County now has over 400 MW of wind from two wind projects
developed by MidAmerican Energy, the local electric utility with a 100
percent renewable energy goal. MidAmerican Energy will pay $3.5 million in property taxes this year, with $2 million going
to the county. In all, MidAmericannergy’s wind projects provide 25 percent of Adair County’s budget.
Statewide, MidAmerican Energy is investing $3.6
billion to install wind turbines in Iowa by 2019, the largest economic
development project in Iowa’s history. This will generate approximately $12.5
million per year in property tax payments statewide, $18 million per year in
landowner payments, and $48 million per year in state and local expenditures
associated with the project.
Before the wind projects were developed, roads and bridges
in Adair County were in very poor condition. Now that the wind farms have come
online, officials have completed most of the infrastructure projects that were
so sorely needed, and they’re even considering property tax cuts! The benefits
from wind are continuing to grow — MidAmerican just
announced it will add an additional 550 MW of wind capacity in Adair
Wind Energy Delivers 20 Percent of County Tax Revenue in Jackson County,
Rural communities across the Midwest are benefitting from
wind — and Jackson County is no outlier. The county is expected to get more
than 20 percent of its annual operating revenue from wind energy’s production
tax. Residents across Jackson County are benefitting from wind energy whether
they have a turbine on their property or not. The county recently completed a new, $14 million public works facility
that, thanks to wind energy, local residents weren’t even asked to chip in
to pay for. Additionally, wind farm revenue has prevented a 14.5 percent increase in property taxes for residents.
Jackson County has
received an average of $1.6 million per year in tax revenue from wind
energy since 2012. They host about 600 MW of wind energy and continue to use
the tax revenue to relieve tax burdens for local residents and support capital
improvements. The Odell Wind Farm developed by Geronimo Energy and now owned
and operated by Algonquin Power & Utilities started a community
fund to finance charitable community projects and opportunities. In fact,
it recently awarded $39,000 for Chromebooks at schools and
funding for a local library, fire departments, ambulance services, 4-H, FFA,
robotics, and more! But that’s not all that wind farms provide.
Wind projects also
provide new, family-supporting jobs for folks that want to live in small,
rural towns. The Lakefield Wind project employs 12 people with well-paying jobs
(Minnesota Wind Energy Technicians’ Median Wage is $26/hour). “I am so
fortunate to be able to live close to family and come back to my rural
community,” said Josh Zeitz, site manager of the Lakefield Wind Project.
Wind is also
providing a new source of revenue for local landowners. “Wind energy is
helping me pass our fourth-generation farm to our son. I’ve been nothing but
happy with my turbines and the whole process,” said David Hanson, a landowner
that hosts 3 Lakefield Wind turbines on his property.
Wind energy is investing in rural communities across the
Midwest by providing new tax revenue, new jobs, new lease payments for farmers,
and new hope for communities that need it most.
Portions of this blog post were also published in MinnPost.
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