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Making wind pay localities

A bill currently being discussed in the Utilities and Energy Committee would set a fee that wind power project developers must pay into the communities or counties that host their projects. Already, developers pay property taxes on their wind projects and often negotiate other community benefit payments. This bill would require developers to pay a constituent amount in every community.

Communities where wind power projects are sited would get standardized payments, under legislation being debated.

A bill currently being discussed in the Utilities and Energy Committee would set a fee that wind power project developers must pay into the communities or counties that host their projects.

Already, developers pay property taxes on their wind projects and often negotiate other community benefit payments. This bill would require developers to pay a constituent amount in every community.

The proposal stems from a 2008 bill that incorporated recommendations from the governor's wind energy task force. One recommendation required that new projects given expedited permitting consideration produce "tangible benefits" for Maine people.

The new bill -- L.D. 1504 -- is meant to clarify the terms of those benefits, said its sponsor, Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville.

Currently, 94 large wind turbines generate electricity in Maine, and within five years, wind turbines may outproduce hydroelectric sources in the state, said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which helped draft the new bill.

Construction of turbines produce high-paying jobs with an... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Communities where wind power projects are sited would get standardized payments, under legislation being debated.

A bill currently being discussed in the Utilities and Energy Committee would set a fee that wind power project developers must pay into the communities or counties that host their projects.

Already, developers pay property taxes on their wind projects and often negotiate other community benefit payments. This bill would require developers to pay a constituent amount in every community.

The proposal stems from a 2008 bill that incorporated recommendations from the governor's wind energy task force. One recommendation required that new projects given expedited permitting consideration produce "tangible benefits" for Maine people.

The new bill -- L.D. 1504 -- is meant to clarify the terms of those benefits, said its sponsor, Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville.

Currently, 94 large wind turbines generate electricity in Maine, and within five years, wind turbines may outproduce hydroelectric sources in the state, said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which helped draft the new bill.

Construction of turbines produce high-paying jobs with an average wage of $31 per hour, according to John Cooney, a vice president of the Woolwich construction firm Reed & Reed.

Once they are built, however, they require very little work to maintain, so while benefits may accrue in terms of the environment and increased national energy security, host communities might not see an ongoing benefit.

Cooney spoke against the bill, saying that the state should do everything it can to encourage wind power production. "Owners and sophisticated developers can very easily put these projects elsewhere," he said.

Compensation would be scaled depending on the size of the project.

If a project produces 20 megawatts to 100 megawatts per year, the developer would pay $14,000 annually into the host community, either through a negotiated "community benefit agreement" or via tax-increment financing that must be spent for economic development locally.

For projects larger than 100 megawatts, the mitigation would fall to $8,000 annually.

Smaller projects that produce less than 20 megawatts of electricity each year would be exempt.

If a project is sited in an unincorporated area, the payment would fall to the county.

The figures are not arbitrary. They were taken from average benefits paid by companies in projects across the state, such as $10 million in property taxes one of the largest wind energy producers in the state, First Wind, will pay to Mars Hill over 20 years.

They are also comparable to projects in the region, Didisheim said.

Rep. David Van Wie, D-New Gloucester, and others, including industry representatives, questioned whether a specific dollar amount per unit of electricity should be attached to the bill. That's just one component of the bill which will be considered in the future work session.

The bill goes to a work session Tuesday.


Source: http://kennebecjournal.main...

JAN 20 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/24224-making-wind-pay-localities
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