WATERLOO | Black Hawk County has rolled out tax incentives designed to attract wind-power generators.
Members of the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the final reading of an ordinance granting property tax breaks on wind turbine construction.
While there were no objections during three public hearings the board held on the measure, Supervisor John Miller voted against its final adoption despite his stated desire to support wind energy.
"I've received some phone calls and talked to several people who have reservations about this," Miller said.
At a previous meeting, Miller said he's heard concerns about who is responsible for removing the turbines once they've outlived their usefulness and who is responsible for any property damages that occur in installing the turbines on properties.
The ordinance, as allowed by Iowa law, will tax wind energy generation projects based on 30 percent of their value instead of the full amount. That is gradually phased in over six years.
Many other Iowa counties have adopted the ordinance already in hopes of luring wind turbine development, which adds to the tax base even at the reduced assessment and can enhance the local power grid to allow for economic development.
De Soto-based RPM Access, which developed many Iowa wind farms, pushed for the supervisors to approve the ordinance because it is evaluating potential turbine sites in the southern Black Hawk County.
"This is a huge step," said Kirk Craft, of RPM Access. "If they would have said no, there's no use in us spending a half million dollars on environmental studies."
Black Hawk is one of many counties RPM Access is considering for additional development.
"Now that we know Black Hawk County is open to doing the tax incentives, it's one more thing I can throw on the table in this area," he said.
Craft said the company likely won't start asking landowners for possible leases until the environmental study is well underway. Eminent domain is not an option for wind farm construction.
"If the individual landowner doesn't want anything to do with us, we can't be there," Craft said. "If we don't have enough property lined up, we're out."
RPM Access has built wind generation projects in the Midwest since 2000, developing approximately 18 percent of the total wind capacity in Iowa. The company's nearest completed project was a 138-megawatt wind farm in Grundy County, which was sold to MidAmerican Energy.