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Taxes on wind farms huge for many farm counties in Colorado

DENVER, Colo. – The 15 counties that comprise the mostly rural, eastern plains in Colorado have quietly been rapidly transformed in the 21st century. A new study commissioned by The Western Way finds that the counties altogether constitute 95% of the renewable energy capacity in Colorado—and more is coming.

By 2024, construction and investment of $9.4 billion will have occurred since 2000 – with 75% of that investment occurring in 33% of that time span, 2016-2024.

You can find the study here.

Wind is critical to the employment base of the eastern plains, the study found, but since 2015 solar positions grew from 42 jobs to 151 jobs in 2019.

Greg Brophy, Colorado director of The Western Way, said the report quantifies the benefits that the region receives for its part in generating the vast majority of Colorado’s renewable energy. But the report, he said, should also be a call for counties in the eastern plains without any projects to roll out the welcome mat and gain the benefits.

This is from the Aug. 14, 2020, issue of Big Pivots. Go HERE to subscribe.

The report cited the testimony of Colorado Rep. Rod Pelton, who represents a big swath of the eastern plains, including Morgan, Logan and other counties in the South Platte Valley as well as areas to the south, including Burlington and Cheyenne Wells.

“In several of the counties in my legislative district, taxes paid by wind farms make up nearly half the amount of the annual operating revenue for county government,” Pelton said. This is a long term and stable funding source that does not fluctuate with the market, and it is enabling local governments to fund needed services without raising taxes. Take Kit Carson County (Burlington) as an example. The total local tax revenue brought in annually is just over $525 per county resident. That is a meaningful amount.”

Cory Wall, a commissioner in Kit Carson County, said his county receives nearly $2 million a year from the wind projects.

“Eastern Colorado has been hit hard by the covid economic shutdown and swings in commodity prices. We are thankful to have these renewable energy projects paying a steady stream of tax revenue and lease payments,” he said.

In Sterling, Logan County’s economic development director, Trae Miller, points to what he called the nation’s premier wind technician training program, which is a component of Northeastern Junior College.

Not all places that have strong resources have wanted them, although Brophy was reluctant to identify them. He agreed that Southeastern Colorado is the poster child of wind resources but absence of transmission.

For a deep dive on the status of southeastern Colorado, see Windy enough in Dust Bowl land.

Allen Best
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