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Dec 27, 2019

WINDS OF CHANGE Company says survey shows residents favor wind farm

Beeville Bee-Picayune | Jason Collins
December 27, 2019

BEEVILLE – Officials with the wind farm proposed primarily near Pawnee say it will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Eric Barnett, with then Lincoln Clean Energy but now Orsted after the company’s purchase, said that the 250-megawatt wind farm is taking shape with 11,000 acres under lease.

“We are focusing our efforts on continuing to lease land,” he told commissioners during their meeting Dec. 9.

The company intends not only to ask the county for a tax abatement, or reduction in the taxes property owners pay but also the school boards in Pawnee and Pettus.

Barnett said he would be in Pawnee at its school trustee meeting in January and in Pettus later that year.

The delay for Pettus is to allow time to lease more property in that community.

Commissioners are expected to discuss not just a traditional tax abatement but what is called a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.

This is different in design than an abatement as the money generated is considered contractual revenue so it is not part of the tax roll. Goliad County commissioners recently reached an agreement with a solar farm company in their county.

Leasing for the project  in Bee County began earlier this year and was initially met with some resistance.

“We have had some landowners we had a hard time getting in contact with come to us and want to talk about a lease,” Barnett said.

In a statement to the newspaper, Orsted said that Bee County, Pettus and Pawnee ISDs and Coastal Bend College stand to receive tens of millions in new tax revenue during the project’s 30-year life.

Matthew Crosby, director of policy with the company, said, “I think, as you know, our business model is to be a long-term owner of the project. 

“And for that reason we want to continue to partner here.

“When we initially approached the Helena Project, we saw some comments in the summertime where there may have been some concern about the level of support for additional wind turbines in Bee County.

“So it’s part of my job to make sure that we’re on solid ground when we approach constituents in the county.”

The company conducted a survey saying its employees called 5,000 people within Bee County asking their opinion about the project. Of those, 25 percent of households responded. 

In a county with a population of 32,563, the survey included responses from 1,250 residents, or about 3 percent of the population. 

In response to questions about the survey, Crosby said, “Earlier this fall, we issued a survey to over 5,000 registered voters across all of Bee County with a landline or mobile phone. 

“We were able to break out responses by precinct.”

Crosby told commissioners that those in Precinct 2, where this project is located, are “still forming opinions. I think the majority didn’t respond or they didn’t have an opinion.

“But of those that did, there was pretty strong support. 

“We actually found that of those that responded (in precincts 1 and 2), two to one support the project to generate property tax revenue to enhance county services.

“And, in particular, I think a lot of folks, when we asked an open-ended question, talked about the value that would bring to the school district.”

Crosby said that Precinct 1 residents supported the project while those in precincts 3 and 4, showed “similar levels of support but a little more were opposed.

“I think the survey demonstrates that this is an opportunity not only to generate millions in new tax revenue that supports accounting services, school services and jobs, but it’s also something that the addition of sporting landowners can actually be something that we can show with this data that people actually get behind.”

Crosby later added, “Precincts 1 and 2 are important because while we are still working with prospective landowners, the project will be located entirely in those two precincts.”

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