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Renewable energy---A real possibility in Illinois

(Saturday, March 6, 2004 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- The following statement by Dan McGuire was submitted to the 2004 Planning Institute's Innovative Community Planning conference at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana on March 4. Vice President of the American Corn Growers Association Keith Bolin submitted the statement as part of his presentation as a panel member. Mr. Bolin, a school board member of the Bureau Valley High School in Manlius, IL was on the Renewable Energies---a real possibility for Illinois panel.

by Dan McGuire
CEO, American Corn Growers Foundation

I want to first thank Keith Bolin, School Board member of the Bureau Valley School District at Manlius, Illinois for asking the American Corn Grower Foundation to provide this statement in conjunction with his participation as one of your panel members today and in support of renewable energy. Second, I applaud the University of Illinois for sponsoring this Innovative Community Planning conference. The timing couldn't be better for UICU to have such an event. Rural America needs innovative planning. The American Corn Growers Foundation works toward developing renewable energy through wind, ethanol, soy diesel and biomass crops such as switchgrass. My statement today focuses on wind energy and the opportunities that it provides to rural communities.

Keith Bolin is also a Vice President of the American Corn Growers Association. We certainly appreciate his leadership and vision on the subject of renewable energy and how it fits in so well with community-based rural economic development. I began working with Keith on the potential of the Bureau Valley High School having its own wind turbine over two years ago. It's great to see the progress they are making. Those early meetings directly resulted from the work of our Wealth From The Wind program. That initiative includes educational workshops where we provided a considerable amount information on the benefits of wind energy, including the economic and educational potential that a school such as Bureau Valley could realize with such an investment. I applaud the Illinois Clean Energy Development Foundation for providing a grant for that project. Ed Miller and everyone at ICEC are great at moving renewable energy forward.

By pursuing their innovative community plan with wind energy, the Bureau Valley School Board is also right in step with the vast majority of corn producers nationwide in terms of interest in wind energy. According to an April 2003 national, scientific and statistically valid survey of 511 corn farmers done by RMA Research of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 93% of corn farmers support wind energy. 89% want farmers, industry and public institutions to promote wind energy as an alternative energy source, so Bureau Valley is not only on the cutting edge but they have strong support from farmers. Illinois had the second largest number of corn farmers, just behind Iowa, in that national survey.

Wind energy is great as a clean, environmental energy source, but it's so much more than that. Large-scale wind farms not only provide a lot of clean power, but they also provide tax and landowner revenue. A LEGISBRIEF from the National Conference of State Legislatures provides some examples. Copies are provided today. And, the model of farmer-locally-investor-owned projects offer excellent potential as a community-based, economic development model. The Bureau Valley School District specifically, estimates their wind turbine could mean as much as $100,000 a year in energy savings. They are currently paying between 8 and 11 cents per kilowatt hour or about $160,000 per year.

Wind power projects also bring new tax revenue to rural communities. Payments generally range from 1 percent to 3 percent of the project's value. At 1 percent, property tax payments would provide approximately $10,000 per MW for rural communities each year. These revenues can be used to build new schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Examples of county property tax revenue from wind projects include:

  • Pecos County, Texas added $4.7 million to its property tax revenue in 2002.
  • In neighboring Iowa 250 MW of wind development provided $2 million per year in property tax revenues for local communities.
  • A 20 MW wind farm in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin will result in annual property tax payments of $200,000 to the county, or 50% of its annual budget.
  • A development in Hyde County, S. Dakota will result in $250,000.
  • Buena Vista, Iowa realized $212,490 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Gray, Kansas realized $330,000 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Lincoln, Minnesota-$471,822 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Fenner (town), NY-$150,000 in property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Umatilla, Oregon realized $893,098 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Upton, Texas realized $3,600,000 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Walla Walla, WA realized $1,500,000 in county property tax revenue in 2002.
  • Carbon, Wyoming realized $373,535 in county property tax revenue in 2002.

It's important for us here in rural America to get as much economic impact from these projects as possible. Big projects are great for generating renewable energy and creating a strong economic development impact, especially during construction and they provide a lot of clean, green energy for many years. Locally-owned, community based projects keep more of the clean energy revenue circulating closer to home, in the rural communities, while providing a stable, clean and renewable energy supply for the long term. Wind energy projects are a value added opportunity whether landowners lease their land or actually have an investor-owner position in the projects and sell the electricity.

One of the most well-known, successful developers of community-based wind farms is Dan Juhl from Pipestone, Minnesota. Mr. Juhl developed the first farmer-owned wind farm in the country at Pipestone, Minnesota. The Kas Brothers’ Wind Farm was completed in 2001. It has two NEG Micon 750-kW turbines. It now yields $30,000-$40,000 annually for the first ten years of operation and then is expected to yield $110,000 to $130,000 annually thereafter, depending on the amount of electricity produced. Pipestone, MN is on the Buffalo Ridge which has an excellent wind resource and Minnesota also has a 1.5 cent/kWh state inventive for projects under 2 MW.

Again, I applaud UIUC for your leadership toward furthering Innovative Community Planning. Some additional materials accompany my statement include:

  • Our American Corn Growers Wealth From The Wind brochures & small wind guides.
  • A USDA Section 9006 fact sheet on renewable energy grants
  • A LEGISBRIEF from the National Conference of State Legislatures on Wind Projects
  • An article from the NREL Ag Outreach Committee on Wind & Economic Development
  • A fact sheet on the Kas Brothers’ Wind Farm located at Pipestone, Minnesota
  • A copy of the April 2003 RMA, Inc. national corn farmer survey on wind energy
  • A printed power point presentation from a USDA official on renewable energy grants.

Renewable energy (wind, ethanol, biodiesel) is a great national asset, providing rural economic development while making America more energy independent. Thank you.