Dr. David Loomis

One of the star witnesses for Apex Energy, Dr. David Loomis, an economic expert, testified last week at the public hearings before the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals.

MONTICELLO – The proposed Goose Creek Wind Farm in Piatt County will have no effect on the property market, experts hired by the company told the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals last week.

It was the main focus during the second week of hearings on the proposed Apex Energy project for a 300 megawatt, 50-turbine project in northern Piatt County.

Mike MaRous, the owner and president of MaRous and Company, an appraiser based in Park Ridge, who specializes in rural property, testified that the proposed wind farm would not affect the property values of property located in the footprint of the project.

“As a result of the market impact analysis undertaken, I concluded that there is no market data from Illinois indicating the wind farm will have a negative impact or either rural residential or agricultural property values in the surrounding area,” MaRous reported. “Further market data from other states, supports the conclusion that the project will not have a negative impact on rural residential or agricultural property values in the surrounding area. Finally, for agricultural properties that host turbines, the additional income from the wind lease may increase the value and marketability of those properties.”

The turbines will have a tip height of approximately 610.2 feet. The project is estimated to create close to 500 temporary construction jobs and nine permanent jobs.

“My conclusion is that with a well-developed, well-planned, properly done modern wind farm, there is no indication that there is anything that will impact property values,” MaRous said.

Under cross examination, MaRous admitted that he was aware of other reports that contradicted his analysis.

MaRous reported that there are significant financial benefits to the local economy and to the local taxing bodies from the development of the wind farm.

The wind farm will create well-paid jobs in the area which will benefit overall market demand.

An analysis of recent residential sales proximate to existing wind farms, which includes residential sales within five times turbine tip height, did not support any finding that proximity to a wind turbine had any impact on property values, he said.

An analysis of agricultural land values in the area and in other areas of the state with wind farms did not support any findings that the agricultural land values are negatively impacted by the proximity to wind turbines. Studies indicate that wind turbine leases add value to agricultural land.

And finally, that a survey of County Assessors in 20 Illinois counties in which wind farms are located determined that there was no market evidence to support a negative impact upon residential property values as a result of the development of and the proximity to a wind farm and that there were no reductions in assessed valuations

Economic expert

Following MaRous, Apex Energy presented one of their star witnesses, David Loomis, a Professor of Economics at Illinois State University, the Executive Director of the Institute for Regulatory Policy Studies and Co-Founder of the Center for Renewable Energy. He has over 20 years of experience in energy analysis and has performed economic development analyses at the county, region, state and national levels for many different energy projects and associated supply chains.

“Wind farms create numerous economic benefits that continue to last for decades. Wind farms create job opportunities in the local area during both the short-term construction phase and the long-term operational phase. Short-term construction jobs include both workers at the wind farm site and jobs created along the supply chain. Long-term operational jobs include wind turbine technicians, supervisors and supply chain jobs.”

Loomis estimated more than 585 new jobs would be created during construction of the project for the count and at least 951 jobs would be created for the State of Illinois during construction.

More than 321 new long-term jobs would be created for the county and at least 55 new jobs would be created for the state of Illinois through the project.

That translates into more than $33.7 million in new earnings during construction for the county and over $1.2 million annually in new long-term earnings.

“Direct jobs created during the construction phase typically last anywhere from six months to over a year, depending on the size of the project,” he said in his report he filed for Apex in the special use permit application. … “The model results show 239 new onsite jobs during construction in Piatt County, though the construction of the project could actually involve hiring closer to 478 workers for six months.”

Direct jobs created during the operational phase last the life of the wind farm, he added, typically 25 to 40 years. Direct construction jobs and operations and maintenance jobs both require highly-skilled workers in the fields of construction, management, and engineering.

ZBA Chairman Loyd Wax asked Loomis about the number of potential employees in Piatt County qualified to work construction on a wind farm project.

“That is something that I can’t put a number on,” Loomis said, “but such a project does attract people to the community and so there is the possibility of adding more residents.”

Property tax

revenues

He estimated the project would generate more than $89.5 million in property taxes for all taxing districts over the life of the project.

Loomis said the farming industry has fluctuated in Piatt County, and the number of farms has decreased from 511 in 1992 to 422 in 2017.

“The amount of land in farms has fluctuated greatly,” he said. “The county farmland hit a low of 251,277 acres in 1992 and a high of 267,265 acres in 2007.”

In his direct testimony, Loomis said that school districts in the area would benefit the most through tax revenue generated by the project. Loomis estimated that Blue Ridge would receive $1.8 million in 2024 and $39 million over the life of the project.

DeLand-Weldon would gain $395,000 in the first year and $8.1 million by 2053, and Monticello, would receive $404,000 in 2024 and $8.3 million by the end of the project.

Loomis said it is a misconception that schools will receive less in state aid after they begin receiving tax revenues from wind farms.

“School funding will not be offset by decreases in state funding,” he said. “The state passed a very complex formula called evidence-based funding in which they looked at each school district’s individual characteristics and determined how much is adequate funding for that particular school district and then they put schools into tiers based on how much local revenue they could get.”

Loomis said the tax revenue generated from the wind farm would be “new money.”

Schools would receive 62% of the tax revenue generated by the wind farm. Piatt County would receive 15% and townships would receive about 12%.

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