Oregon Wind Farm Invigorates Rural Economy

The Renewable Northwest Project, a renewable energy advocacy group, released a report detailing the economic development benefits of the 24 MW Klondike Wind Farm in Sherman County, Oregon. This comes on the heels of an announced expansion of the wind farm by approximately 75 MW.

Entitled “Windfall from the Wind Farm; Sherman County, Oregon,” the report illustrates the economic development benefits that local and regional businesses experienced during project planning and construction, as well as the positive effect that increased property tax revenues are having on critical county services. The Renewable Northwest Project, a regional renewable advocacy group based in Portland, wrote the report, which contains the results of countless personal interviews with county officials, local landowners and business owners. The report’s authors said that these economic development benefits are poised to grow substantially given the recent announcement by PPM Energy that the company is expanding the project by an additional 75 MW, and that Portland General Electric will purchase the power that the turbines produce. PPM Energy owns the Klondike Wind Farm (built in 2001), which consists of sixteen wind turbines that can generate up to 24 MW of electricity; enough to power approximately 6,100 homes in the Pacific Northwest. “Wind energy projects can be a great economic development boon for rural counties in Oregon,” said Rachel Shimshak, Director of the Renewable Northwest Project. “It is impressive that a relatively small project can have such a significant, positive effect on a community.” Revenue from the wind farm is helping to sustain this historically single-engine economy that is under increased stress from low wheat prices and decreasing harvests. The amount of property tax that the county received from this project in 2002-2003 represented a 10 percent increase in the county’s total tax revenue over the previous year. These funds were used to support a variety of county services including the county general fund, schools, roads, health district, corrections and fire protection. This wind farm is expected to generate approximately US $250,000 in property taxes annually over its twenty to thirty year lifetime. “Wind power helps to diversify the economy. It’s another crop we can harvest and it helps fill gaps in the county budget,” said Sherman County Judge Mike McArthur. Some farmers in Sherman County receive annual royalty payments of between $2,000 and $4,000 for each turbine sited on their property. According to Lee Kaseberg, a local wheat and wind farmer, the turbines are compatible with regular farming operations. “Put them up, we can farm around them easily,” Kaseberg said. Other farmers cited the additional income came in particularly handy during the winter months when they can’t farm their land. A variety of Oregon businesses were involved in each phase of the project. Tenneson Engineering provided surveying services, KC Construction from Wasco built the roads and crane pads, and Hood River Sand and Gravel supplied concrete.
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