Invenergy's new wind farm up, running and generating

Invenergy's new wind farm up, running and generating

The big turbines are now turning in Champaign and Vermilion counties.

After months of construction, Chicago-based Invenergy announced on Wednesday that the California Ridge Wind Farm is up and running. The project saw around 30 turbines placed in northeastern Champaign County and 104 more in Vermilion County.

Invenergy said turbine construction put more than 230 people to work, and the project will also create 14 permanent jobs. The group also said the turbines will generate enough renewable energy to power around 65,000 homes.

Champaign County Board Chairman Al Kurtz has been a big advocate of the wind farm and worked to get it approved when he was chairman of the county's Environmental and Land Use Committee. Kurtz said he's excited about how much the project will give back to the county.

"Each turbine will give us revenue over $14,000 a year in taxes. Fifty percent of that ... would be for schools in that area," Kurtz said. And each of those 30 Champaign County turbines will also generate revenue for other taxing districts and county government, he said.

"If you multiply 30 (turbines) by $14,200 a year, you can see where that can become very significant over the years, with not having to place any burden on taxpayers," he said.

Kurtz also said he hopes this wind farm will be successful enough to draw other wind farm developers to the county.

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Carolyn Gerwin wrote on December 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Wrong.  All wind projects are a burden to taxpayers and consumers.  According to news reports, this project had capital costs of about $444 million.  Wind industry reps admit they get 40-50% of their capital investment by selling the tax credits provided by the federal government.  This project will get about $178 million in federal tax credits.  Tax equity investors provide capital up front in return for the tax breaks generated in the future.  This is one way that GE and other Big Wind cronies get out of paying taxes.  The federal treasury does NOT get those revenues and they must be made up by the people who DO pay taxes or else it must be borrowed and added to our national debt, which now exceeds $16 trillion.  Now I will assume that Mr. Kurtz got at least some of his other facts correct in order to calculate the alleged benefit.  If there are 134 turbines and each generates $14,200 per year in tax revenues, that equals $1.9 million in Year 1.  The Illinois statute that sets wind turbine taxes allows for depreciation every year.  The law expires in 2016, but let’s assume you get lucky and the statute is renewed, the wind farm stays in business and it actually continues to pay the top level of taxes for all 10 years that they get the tax breaks.  Ignoring the depreciation allowances, that would be $19 million in 10 years for the entire project.  Wow, we’ve just taken $177 of our hard-earned money and converted it to less than $19 million!  What a deal! It’s a sweet deal for Big Wind, not so sweet for America.  And what do we get for our part in propping up this industry?  A tiny amount of incredibly unreliable, high-priced electricity that must be backed up with natural gas plants.  And here’s the fun part:  those gas plants could provide that energy cheaper and greener if it weren’t for the interference of the wind projects!  AND stand-alone gas plants could be built with ZERO cost to taxpayers because gas-fired electricity is competitive without subsidies!  We haven’t even talked about loss of property values, quality of life, human health impacts, wildlife impacts, or the tens of billions it will cost to build the transmission infrastructure needed to accommodate wind energy.  The Production Tax Credit is set to expire in 4 days.  Unfortunately, Invenergy got its hand in our cookie jar just in time to cash in, and our nation will be poorer as a result.

Carolyn Gerwin wrote on December 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm

And if Invenergy chose to get a grant under the 1603 program instead of taking the tax credits, that is even worse because they will get 30% of their capital costs reimbursed right up front at Treasury expense .  No strings attached, no jobs required, no generation required.  The company can fold its tents shortly after they get the check, Solyndra-style.  If we want to fund our schools, it would be much more efficient for the feds to just write a check and save the other 86% of the cost of the subsidy for Big Wind and its cronies.

bmwest wrote on December 30, 2012 at 9:12 am
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You mentioned that the federal treasury is out $178M because of this project but isn't that assuming that, without the tax credit, the project would have occurred anyway?  If the project never happened, the treasury wouldn't have seen that money either, correct?  Is there any indication that it would have occurred without the tax credit?  I don't personally know if wind projects are profitable on their own or not but perhaps someone on here does.

In terms of the $19M return on a $178M "expense", to be fair you'd have to factor in the tax revenues generated by the income and sales taxes on wages earned by construction and maintenance including the workers who built it, the workers at factories that build the parts, the workers that transport the materials, the workers that mine the raw materials, plus the economic multiplier effect of those activities (e.g. local shops, restaurants, and gas station income increases as those workers spend their wages).  I'm sure this still doesn't approach the $178M but it still is a factor.

The other comment I'll make is that, as a relatively new infrastructure, there is often a requirement for government subsidization.  Interstate highways and the Internet were both initially funded in large part by the federal government and the highways remain so to this day.  Most would not argue that those were wise investments given the economic benefits of that infrastructure even as nearly all of those tax dollars went to the revenues of workers and private contractors.

You mention that wind is unreliable and high-priced.  Do you know of any independent or acadmic studies that I could read up on to better understand those points?  I've heard the argument that a lack of wind causes dozens or more turbines to stop production but I was always under the impression that the wind was always blowing somewhere and turbines not spinning in one location were averaged out with turbines spinning in high winds elsewhere in the country.  The pricing seems reasonable if $444M powers 65,000 homes for 20 years as that works out to a monthly cost of about $28.50 per home.

You mentioned that wind projects interfere with gas plants.  Can you explain that?  Also, when you mention gas as cleaner, does that factor in the carbon emissions and the environmental costs of the only 14-year-old practice of horizontal slickwater fracturing?  I'm not sure what human health impacts you're referring to but I personally wouldn't have an issue with living right next to a wind turbine and I might even pay more to do so since I think they're kind of cool to watch.  I honestly don't know enough about transmission infrastructure to understand what costs might be involved but I'd assume those costs are factored into the $444M build cost.

MYPOV wrote on December 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

No burden on the taxpayer?  I guess the government grants and subsidies just dropped from the clouds..  Of the 230 employed during construction 216 are now out of work and collecting unemployment leaving a whopping 14 still working.  Equates to costing us the taxpayer over a million dollars each for jobs created.  Just how is this good for the country?

bmwest wrote on December 30, 2012 at 9:12 am
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Do we know that all 216 are unemployed or did they move on to different projects or jobs elsewhere in the country?

yates wrote on December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

If they cost the tax payer a million dollars a job, does it matter where they move? Makes great sense in democrat circles no doubt though.

bmwest wrote on December 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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I was only speaking to the claim that these workers are now unemployed.

I'm not sure where this figure of $1M/job comes from.  If you just take the raw value of the tax credit of $178M and divide by the 230 jobs, I suppose you get close to $1M/job.  But that omits the value of the turbines and related infrastructure that were built.  That's but one metric.  You could also say it was $1.3M/turbine, $x per mile of new powerline, $x per mile of improved roadway, or any of a number of other metrics that only view one aspect of the project.  I'm not saying that the total benefits outweigh the total costs overall, just that a statistic such as $1M/job is misleading.

Avalon wrote on December 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

The wind farm was constructed by White Construction out of Indiana. ( who has been involved with numerous wind farm projects in Illinois and throughout the USA. So the 230 people claimed to be used used in the construction phase are most likely not local unless local includes Indiana. The 14 permanent jobs will be maintenance positions which may be Illinois based but are not necessarily "local" as they travel from one location to another to service turbines.

And a personal opinion about subsidies...everything related to major business in this country receives a subsidy of some sort whether outright money in grants, loans or tax breaks or tax loopholes. Some subsidies are probably worthwhile and some are not. The media has hyped the "dairy cliff" and possible milk prices of $7 per gallon or more if farm subsidies are cut or reduced.  And then there are the subsidies to farmers to grow more corn for ethanol.  Are farm subsidies worthwhile?   What about the billions of dollars of subsidies to oil companies to mix ethanol with gasoline? Do they need money to reduce the energy content of fuel that will cause you to buy more fuel thus increasing their income? Do they need our tax dollars to prosper?

The arguments are endless.

I am happy that energy is being produced nearby is free from pollution and helps to keep the air I breathe cleaner. It's too bad that the energy produced by the California Ridge Wind Farm is sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority and and not used locally. 


bmwest wrote on December 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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I think we'd all be astounded if we got to see the true, unsubsidized costs for all the products we use on a daily basis.  The distortions those cause to the free market are significant.  I wouldn't be surprised at all if renewable energy were sustainable without any subsidies if all other energy sources were also unsubsidized.  We need to make a concerted effort to swing the pendulum back that way in a coordinated way, perhaps on a percentage basis industry by industry.

swingl425 wrote on January 02, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Those 14 jobs are 100% local.  The maintenance folks are employed by the local site.  They don't travel, except for necessary training.