Windfarm Windfall: State Study Questions Benefits

Clay County Commissioners are debating a potential tax abatement for a windfarm contract.

According to a study from the Texas Comptrollers office, Texas spends too much to bring in windfarm contracts with little benefits.

The Clay County Judge and Horn Wind -- the company in talks to construct the wind farm -- feel the study may be valid for the state but not for the county. In fact, the Vice President of the clean energy company says the wind farm will attract business to the county and will benefit every resident.

"Direct benefits are the job creation we'll make. And then whenever during construction, all these people who are working, they have to stay somewhere. They have to buy gasoline, food, etcetera," says Jerry Horn, Vice President of Horn Wind, LLC. "When the construction starts, it should take about 6 months to construct this project and there should be between 50 and 100 jobs in construction. When the construction is over with and the project is completed, probably 8 jobs will be full time with benefits."

The potential project will be located on the south western corner of Clay County with up to 200 wind turbines.

"This is clean energy and its only wind that is used to produce it," explains Horn.

However the green energy will not give residents a bill break. The power from the potential farm will go out of county to a bigger area.

"It's too much power for here. I mean, you can run all the cities in the county and still have a surplus," says Horn. The company is looking for a power purchase provider, to essentially sell the energy created to another city across the state.

Yet, the county is actively discussing tax abatements, which is a break in the company's taxes, or a flat fee, in lieu of payment. No matter the option, the farm is estimated to cost about $350 million up front with about a $15 million payout to the county over 25 years.

"You have 100 percent of your investment up front and after 10 years of abatement with the county, you still pay taxes on it," he explains.

Especially since the farm will be for Clay County by a family from Clay County. "We're not from somewhere way off, we are local, we live in the county and we have concerns for the county. We are not trying to hurt it, we are trying to benefit it."

The company hopes construction on the windfarm will start in 2012.

Clay County Commissioners will meet with the County Attorney December 30th in an executive session to discuss the terms of the tax abatement. After that point, the commission hopes to present the abatement at a commission meeting in January.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6