Wind Energy Needs our Tax Dollars to Survive
"For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit."
Wind energy exists because our representatives in both the federal government and our local governments give them our tax dollars. There are two significant tax revenue sources for these companies.
The federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) provides a significant tax revenue for wind installations. It is estimated that this tax credit will provide $48B of our tax dollars to the wind energy industry by the time it phases out. The PTC is a subsidy that benefits a few energy corporations. Only 15 parent companies account for more than three-fourths of all PTC eligibility. The PTC distorts electricity markets. It encourages wind energy producers to accept negative prices. The negative prices increase costs for other energy producers and electricity suppliers. The PTC operates within a web of wind energy incentives that increase costs to taxpayers, further distort electricity markets, and benefit large corporations. The PTC was slated to phase out completely by the end of 2019, but was extended through 2020 in the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Tax Act in December of 2019.
Local property tax abatements are also sought and provided to wind energy companies. Under Texas Chapter 312 & 313 of the property tax code, local governments can provide a cap on the valuation of the newly installed wind facilities at $10M per year for 10 years. Provided that the installed cost per turbine is currently $4M to $5M and with the proposed installation is 60 - 80 turbines, the total value of the proposed wind farm will be $250M - $400M. Taxpayers see little benefit from this installation value as it is capped at the $10M level for 10 years. Over this time, the equipment depreciates. With a life of 10 - 15 years, at the 10 year mark where the $10M cap on value is to be lifted, the market value at that time of the equipment will be greatly reduced. Therefore, the taxpayers of the county will never see the benefit of the increase in tax base due to this installation.
Local tax abatements under Chapter 312 & 313 are also granted at the local level. County Commissioners are also not required to ask for public input on this issue until just 72 hours prior to their final vote. This means they can meet with wind companies privately, negotiate agreements, have closed door discussions all without their constituents knowledge. At the point where the public is finally invited to a hearing on the issue, the decisions are most always already made. An issue such as wind projects that will potentially impact the county for the next 60 years, should not be a decision made without public input and debate. To overcome this lack of transparency, communities have actively reached out to their commissioners through in-person discussions, email, phone or petitions.
In summary, these wind companies need our tax dollars to build these installations. Without the PTC, this industry will significantly slow. Without the local abatements, no proposed project will proceed. Our county leadership needs to hear from our landowners and residents to ensure they know we will not support tax abatements in our counties.
In the application for a Chapter 313 tax abatement for a project proposed in Eastland County, RWE Renewables admitted they have never built a wind farm without a tax abatement and most likely will not if they do not receive one from Cisco ISD.
Wind Does Not Deliver On Jobs
In Texas, as part of the agreement entered into when a wind energy company receives a Chapter 312 & 313 property tax abatement, they must commit to bring full-time jobs to the local communities granting the abatement. Those positions are required to be quality jobs with compensation that is above the average annual wage for similar jobs in the area. The problem lies in the ability of the local governments to issue waivers on the jobs creation requirement after the wind energy company has received the abatement and completed construction. In fact, 87% of all waivers in Texas under Chapter 313 for job creation are granted to the wind industry. Multiple statistical analyses of Chapter 313 deals, conducted since the law was amended to allow waivers of job-creation requirements, have shown that wind farms disproportionately take advantage of their ability to qualify for big tax breaks from school districts without providing any new employment opportunities to the community. During the construction phase, a majority of the labor is from out of the local area. In most cases, the wind energy company contracts with a construction company that is responsible for building the project. This company has their own experienced employees that are deployed to each project. They may utilize some local labor for some tasks but the vast majority of compensation is paid to non-local employees. In short, wind energy is not about jobs creation. It is about tax credits for the wind energy companies.
Wind Turbines Catch on Fire
Wind turbines often catch fire, for areas that suffer from grass fires, this can be incredibly hazardous. Fires cannot be put out because the turbines are too tall, so the fire department just monitors until it hopefully burns out without incident. In surrounding counties with turbines, there have been 3 reported fires in July alone with one burning 1,500 acres.
In areas like West Texas, people mostly live in or near town, however in the Big Country people are more spread out throughout the countryside. If a fire burns
1,500 acres here, homes and livelihoods would be lost forever, plus the added risk to our volunteer firefighters.
Wind companies will either not be held responsible or pay as little as possible. After a wind turbine caught fire and burned 500 acres, the rancher was only reimbursed a $1 per acre when a hay field can bring in roughly $180 per acre per year.
Only Select Few will have Turbines
For example in Brown & Coleman Counties:
The proposed wind project is stated to be a 200MW installation of approximately 60 to 80 turbines that will be 570' tall. The necessary contiguous acreage for this size project is 25,000 to 35,000 acres or approximately 40 square miles. That means that there will be one turbine for approximately every 415 acres. All you have to do is look to their east to see that in neighboring wind installations, there is far more land without turbines than with turbines. In Brown and Coleman counties, the average acreage of landowners is approximately 300 acres. So there is the real possibility that many landowners will not see any income opportunity from this wind farm but will have the negative impacts that come with them. There will be landowners that lease their land hoping for turbine income but only receive a transmission line, roads, buildings or nothing at all but all will have the impact on the decreased value of their land.
Eastland County's proposed project is 200MW installation with 71 wind turbines at 600 ft+ tall. The proposed project area is 25,000 acres, which is about 352 acres per turbine, while the average landowner owns roughly 150 acres in Eastland County.
Property Values Will Decrease
Decreasing Property Values of 25% to 40% Where Wind Farms Exist Are Real.
The installation of industrial wind power facilities will severely reduce local property values. In Eastland County, 80% of land is for recreational use, meaning people buy land here to enjoy the beauty, peace, and tranquility of the land and lifestyle that it represents. The result of a wind project in our area will be a significant reduction in marketability of our land, homes and our county if we allow it to proceed.
The common sense approach concerning values, and the most widely used and accepted approach to valuing rural property, is defined as an estimate of value of recent sales of similar property in the surrounding or competing areas – as compared to the subject property. The facts are these: property values in Eastland County Texas area have increased 60% over the last several years with buyers from urban areas acquiring land for recreation and retirement purposes. These buyers spend money in our county and our cities. They eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores, contract with our tradesman, and pay taxes. In areas of our state and nation where wind turbine companies have developed wind industrial zones, property values have decreased materially. Many cannot sell their land once turbines are introduced.
So, what will happen when industrial wind zones are developed in our counties, where land is selling at $3,000 or more per acre? It will significantly slow down our real estate market and slow our economic growth as we have come to know it. Just as scenic views and water features tend to increase property values, we know based on publicly available evidence that massive industrial turbines and power transmission lines will dramatically decrease property values. Based on independent studies, the values may decrease 25% to 40% or more in these areas. In fact, several brokers in neighboring counties like Comanche and Mills Counties that sell property, state that 8 of 10 buyers will not even look at a property if there are wind turbines in view. Brokers have reported in Brown County that they have had clients decide not to buy land because of the potential of wind turbines being built in proximity to the property. Those landowners who wish to sell property are already seeing the effects of this proposed project. Eastland County has had new residents speak out at public meetings stating had they known wind farms were proposed, they would not have purchased land here and would have moved on to somewhere else.
Value and marketability impacts are real and they are substantial. Furthermore the wind companies gain the large profits of increased electricity costs, federal subsidies, and state tax credits. The landowner gains none of these tax incentives or real profits in comparison to such wind companies. Hard facts are – if wind turbines are in your view, you lose.