JEFFERSON CITY Mo. — Property tax revenue from wind farms in Nodaway County will remain local under legislation sponsored by state Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, and passed by the Missouri House and Senate in the closing days of the session.
In essence, the bill, known as House Bill 220, which Gov. Mike Parson has reportedly said he will sign, revises state statutes that allow public utilities to buy wind farms from privately held companies and spread tax dollars throughout their service areas — not the counties where the energy is actually produced.
“This is probably going to be the most important piece of legislation that I’ll ever put my hands on in my time in office,” Andrews previously told The Forum.
“(Wind farms) are literally pumping millions of dollars of tax revenue into our local, rural areas. In our communities, in our schools, our ambulance districts, our fire departments — (it's money) that we would not have had. And, in some cases, this isn’t just extra money: this is survival … this is survival money.
“If you were to take away this funding from wind, from some of our school districts, they’d collapse. It’s that important.”
Andrews estimated that Atchison County already is receiving more than $3 million annually in wind revenue, and that a similar project in DeKalb County is expected to add between $3.5 million and $4 million to local government coffers, including schools.
Without Andrews' legislation, tax revenue collected on wind farms owned by public utilities would be shared among counties in which the utilities provide power — and only those counties. That would include the new Brickyard Hill wind farm in Atchison County to be constructed by Ameren Missouri, a large public utility serving much of the eastern part of the state.
Since Ameren is not a power provider in Atchison County, under current state law, the county would not receive any property tax revenue from the wind farm. Andrews’ legislation, however, should change that.
County Assessor Rex Wallace said Friday he has been told that Gov. Parson has pledged to sign Andrews' bill, which will go into effect in August.
In other Nodaway wind news, Enel Green Power North America, which in March acquired Tradewind Energy's 236-megawatt White Cloud wind farm project being developed across the western part of the county, announced that it has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., a power utility based in Springfield.
Enel Green currently operates the 300-megawatt Rock Creek wind farm in Atchison County.
Associated Electric will purchase the entire output generated by the White Cloud project, which is slated for construction this summer.
Since Enel, like Tradewind, is a privately held energy developer, the question of White Cloud tax revenues being distributed outside the county is not an issue, Wallace said.
Once operational, White Cloud is expected to create eight or 10 permanent full-time positions paying about $70,000 each. During the 12- to 15-month construction period, the project also will support more than 250 temporary construction jobs.
While property taxes assessed to White Cloud will be reduced by about 50 percent compared to existing levies, the installation will generate $1.4 million in new annual tax revenues, $900,000 of which will flow to local school districts, especially South Nodaway R-IV and Nodaway-Holt R-VII.
Maryville R-II schools also will receive some wind farm tax money, but the impact on Maryville city government is essentially nil.
After the 17-year term of tax abatements expires, Tradewind will pay taxes at the normal rate, which will increase the yearly revenue stream from the project to $2.8 million a year for a total of $113 million over the expected 25-year life of the project.
Also under development in the northern part of Nodaway County is Clear Creek Energy Center, a wind farm being built by Tenaska, a privately held energy developer based in Omaha, Nebraska.
When completed, Clear Creek will embrace up to 120 wind turbines stretching north from Maryville to the Iowa line and is projected to produce about 240 megawatts of electricity, or approximately enough energy to power about 100,000 single-family residences.
As with White Cloud, the electricity will be sold to Springfield-based Associated Electric Cooperative, which will in turn wholesale wind-produced power to six regional co-ops, including United Electric, which serves much of rural Nodaway County.
Construction cost for the new wind farm is estimated at between $200 million and $300 million. When completed, Tenaska will pay about $1.2 million a year in property taxes, most of which will be funneled to public school districts, especially North Nodaway R-VI.
Other districts set to benefit from the Clear Creek project include West Nodaway R-I and Maryville R-II.
For every tax dollar paid by Tenaska, 68 cents will go for schools. The rest is earmarked for other governmental entities, including municipalities and rural fire protection districts.