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nexteraCUPtownships

County commission works to negotiate a payment in lieu of tax agreement with wind farm company before December 31

By Deb Hadachek Telescope editor
www.thebellevilletelescope.com

Republic County Commissioners met in a closed door session with officials from NextEra Energy Monday to hammer out terms of a conditional use agreement for a proposed wind farm in Republic County.

No details of the negotiations were released. Republic County Clerk Kathleen Marsicek said commissioners directed Republic County Attorney Marlea James to draft an agreement that includes a payment in lieu of taxes, road agreement and road escrow account for future maintenance issues.

“We hope to have something to approve next Monday,” Marsicek said. She said Republic County Commissioners have stayed in contact with Washington County Commissioners in an effort to make sure both counties secure similar agreements from NextEra.

The conditional use permit would allow any NextEra project in Republic and Washington counties to slip under the wire to take advantage of a lifetime tax exemption that Kansas has offered to encourage wind farm development. Beginning January 1, any new wind farms will receive a

Beginning January 1, any new wind farms will receive a 10 year tax abatement and then be assessed as a state utility, like other electric companies in Kansas. In a legal advertisement published ahead of Monday’s hearing, NextEra asked for the conditional use permit for tracts in Albion, Liberty, Freedom, Fairview, Rose Creek, Richland and Elk Creek Townships (see map). Public hearing About a dozen members of the public attended the hearing on the conditional use agreement Monday morning.

Sam Massey, director of wind farm development in Kansas for NextEra, said the need to negotiate with the county for a conditional use permit was “abnormal” this early in the development process. “We were thrust into this situation because of the way the tax situation will change in Kansas,” he said. “No one likes to pay taxes, but if I’m going to pay taxes I want to get the most bang for my buck,” Massey said. “I would prefer the money not go to Topeka but to give it straight to

Public hearing

About a dozen members of the public attended the hearing on the conditional use agreement Monday morning. Sam Massey, director of wind farm development in Kansas for NextEra, said the need to negotiate with the county for a conditional use permit was “abnormal” this early in the development process.

“We were thrust into this situation because of the way the tax situation will change in Kansas,” he said.

“No one likes to pay taxes, but if I’m going to pay taxes I want to get the most bang for my buck,” Massey said. “I would prefer the money not go to Topeka but to give it straight to county.” Massey said how wind farms will be assessed in Kansas in the future, and how payments get filtered to the county is “unclear”. “We’ve been in discussion for a contribution agreement with the county now so the county is able to get some guaranteed revenue stream if a project gets built, and NextEra gets tax exemption benefits,” he said. “I’m not interested in playing hardball tactics. I want to have a discussion with county and community about what’s best for the project and the community.

“We’ve been in discussion for a contribution agreement with the county now so the county is able to get some guaranteed revenue stream if a project gets built, and NextEra gets tax exemption benefits,” he said. “I’m not interested in playing hardball tactics. I want to have a discussion with county and community about what’s best for the project and the community.

“Ultimately I don’t succeed if end up with a bunch of angry citizens.” Massey said NextEra is only seven or eight months into a development process that normally takes three to nine years. He said there are five key factors that determine whether the project will become reality: wind capacity, landowner participation, availability of transmission lines, regulatory framework in the state, and a customer to buy the power that is generated. Massey said the company has made no determination as to where a wind farm might be placed, other than within an area “somewhere between Belleville and Washington, up to the state line and about two-thirds of the way down.”

Massey said the company has made no determination as to where a wind farm might be placed, other than within an area “somewhere between Belleville and Washington, up to the state line and about two-thirds of the way down.”

Question spray planes, decommissioning

Citizens who attended Monday’s hearing quizzed Massey on a variety of subjects from how the company plans to pay to remove the turbines if it goes out of service to whether farmers can still hire spray planes to apply pesticides to crops. Massey said the company buys a bond as insurance to fund decommissioning. But, he said, some of NextEra’s oldest wind projects in the nation in California are being repowered with new equipment. Today’s wind farms have an estimated 30-year lifespan, he said. Today’s turbines are 2.1 to 2.4 megawatt, but new wind farms are being built with turbines in excess of three megawatts, he said.

“The trend is to build fewer towers with more megawatts,” he said. Massey said in other areas, communication between the farmers and wind farms allows the company to shut down turbines and turn the blades so spray planes “have a clear path to spray”. The turbines can also be controlled remotely from the company’s operational center in Florida, where the staff works to take best advantage of the wind for its 110 farms in North America. Wind turbines can be rotated “almost like sunflowers” to take advantage of the best wind currents. He also allayed fears that private landowners would be liable for injuries to wind farm employees hurt in work accidents. Massey said a wind contract offers landowners a guarantee of income that is “drought proof”. “Wind contracts offer farmers some income that is not affected by fluctuations or volatility of crop prices,” he said.

“Most land owners will not get rich off wind turbines, but it is a nice hedge against uncertainty.”