The House Ways and Means Committee took testimony March 24 on HB464 which would exempt qualifying wind and solar energy facilities from property taxation for up to 20 years and to require payments in lieu of taxes on the basis of each megawatt if production capacity of such facilities. The bill is similar to SB 232, introduced by Sen. Chris Widener, FAIA.
Committee members heard proponent testimony for the bill, which would exempt qualifying wind and solar energy facilities from property taxation for up to 20 years and would require payments in lieu of taxes on the basis of each megawatt of production capacity of such facilities.
Connie Neininger, economic development director for White County, Indiana, testified about the impact of a wind farm development in White County, an agricultural community that began researching wind energy when three different wind energy companies began courting their community. So far, the wind farm has been an asset to the community, she said.
Construction of the project brought many workers, which increased sales for local restuarants and hotels. The Indiana company that was the contractor for Phase 1 hired local residents for the job. Tourism season was extended to year-round, Neininger said, and schools are using the wind farms for education, starting tours of wind farms and hosting speakers. A local community college developed a sustainable energy curriculum to train the workforce. Neininger said the wind company is a good neighbor, causing minimal disruption of the farmland and preserving the land for farming for the future. The total project will measure 600 megawatts and consist of 350 turbines that span 84,000 acres.
Eric Thumma, director of institutional relations for Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., testified in support of the bill.
“Ohio’s existing tax regime puts wind development here at a significant disadvantage relative to other neighboring locations,” Thumma said. “HB464 mitigates that disadvantage while providing a known, stable, and significant stream of tax revenue to local communities – tax revenues that would possibly go completely unrealized if investments in proposed commercial scale wind projects are discouraged through the current uncompetitive tax regime.”
Written testimony was submitted by Clair Dudgeon, a Van Wert County commissioner who expressed support for the bill and said it would help the county compete with neighboring communities across the Indiana border.
Also providing written support of the bill was Robert Wannemacher, treasurer of the Wayne Trace Local School District in Haviland. Wannemacher suggested the tax rate of $6,000 per megawatt capacity should be raised to $10,000 or $12,000 per megawatt, which would place Ohio in the median of states with wind turbines.
Elaine Siler, a land owner in Van Wert County, also submitted written testimony in support of the bill as a way to keep Ohio competitive and make positive changes for the future.
Phil McClure, a retired farmer and property owner in Van Wert County who has signed a contract with a wind company to build wind mills on an 80 acre farm also wrote in support of the bill.