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Wind developers plan to seek tax deal soon

Champaign project would mean millions in tax revenue.

Developers of a proposed wind farm in Champaign County said Thursday they will soon seek a special tax treatment for the project, which, if approved, would move the project one step closer to construction.

Everpower Wind Holdings, the company in charge of the project, will soon submit an application to the Ohio Development Services Agency that seeks permission fort the wind farm to make a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT. If the state has no objection, the proposal would be then be reviewed by the Champaign County commissioners, said Michael Speerschneider, senior director of government affairs and permitting for Everpower.

Speerschneider did not provide a specific timeline but said the application could be submitted in the next several weeks. The two phases of the project combined would likely be built at the same time and would include about 100 turbines spread across six townships in Champaign County.

Under state legislation passed in 2010, projects like Buckeye could be exempt from paying tangible personal property taxes like a traditional utility. Instead, the company would make an annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which would be shared among several entities in the county including schools, the county and townships, among others. If the commissioners did not approve the PILOT payments, the wind farm would be taxed like a traditional utility.

Under the PILOT program, Everpower would pay as much as $1.8 million annually to the county, or about $40 million over the life of the project. Jason Dagger, a spokesman for the project, said it would make the wind farm one of the county’s largest sources of revenue.

It’s not yet clear how much the company would pay as a traditional utility.

But opponents of the project have argued the turbines already receive federal tax breaks and state incentives.

Jack Van Kley, an attorney for Union Neighbors United, said despite the revenue, taxpayers would be providing a tax break to a private company if the PILOT payment is approved. UNU is made up of a group of residents who are opposed to the project.

“Certainly, if this project were to stand on its own without taxpayer assistance, it would not be profitable,” Van Kley said.

The Ohio Power Siting Board recently declined to review its initial decision to approve the project, and Van Kley said opponents will appeal the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The wind project also recently received a permit for the endangered Indiana Bat, which has been found in the project area. The permit sets a limit of 130 Indiana bats that can be killed or injured throughout the life of the project.

Speerschneider said the proposal for the wind farm is far enough along it made sense to move ahead with the application for the PILOT payments.

“This is one of the processes we need to go through,” Speerschneider said.

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