Projections Add Up: Majority of Wind Farm Tax Revenue Funneled to Schools

Main Point: One advantage of recent wind farm approvals in McLean County is the anticipated increase in property tax revenue for local school districts. Revenue dollars generated by the two existing wind farms have already contributed funds to McLean County Schools. 

Rewind: In the past month, two new wind farm developments were approved by the McLean County Board; the McLean County Wind Energy Center and the Bright Stalk Wind Farm. They will join the two existing wind farms: White Oak Energy Center (2011) and Twin Groves Wind Farm, which was completed in two phases (2007 and 2008). 

The White Oak Energy Center was originally proposed by Invenergy, but currently is owned by NextEra Energy. Invenergy also owns the McLean County Energy Center wind farm approved by the county board earlier this month.

The Twin Groves Wind Farm was proposed by Zilhka Renewable Energy, which was later purchased by Horizon Wind Energy. In 2008, the company became part of EDP Renewables, which owns the upcoming Bright Stalk Wind Farm.

The Data: Between the two newest wind farms, the projected property tax revenue over the life of the current contract is $99.1M ($47.1M for Bright Stalk and $52M for McLean County Wind Energy).  Bright Stalk Wind Farm will generate over $2 million annually for McLean County, said Blair Matocha, a communications representative from EDP Renewables.  

The special use permit application for the White Oak Energy Center did not include any projections for the property taxes over the span of the wind farm contract. Recommendations from the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) also noted no projections for property taxes. However, McLean County Treasurer and Tax Collector Rebecca McNeil confirmed that the White Oak Energy Center has generated $8.1M in property taxes to date.

The special use permit for the Twin Groves Wind Farm (originally named Arrowsmith Wind Farm) estimated an annual property tax revenue of $2.86M or $57.2M over the life of the 20-year contract. The Twin Groves Wind Farm has been in operation for 11 years and has generated $31.46M to date.

The Twin Groves Wind Farm was completed in two phases with each phase including 120 turbines. Phase one has generated $15.1M and phase two has generated $17M to date, McNeil said, for a total of $32.1M since operations began.

In total, the two wind farms have generated over $40M in property taxes for McLean County since 2007.  Of those $40M, a total of $26.1M have gone to school districts, McNeil said.

Fine Print: Historically, local school districts in McLean County have received roughly 60% of the collected property taxes. Although this percentage remains the same, the total amount of property tax revenue for school districts in McLean County has risen by roughly 20% since 2010, according to McLean County tax records. Many factors contribute to the increased tax base, but the wind farms are a definite additional source of revenue for schools.

Key Takeaway: The additional revenue from the newly approved wind farms could generate a steady flow of property taxes to the local community. Assuming the projections from the current wind farms in McLean County are an indicator of actual property tax revenue over the coming years, the county and local school districts could witness a continued increase in funding.

Christian Prenzler