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A windy win for county: Mower County leads the state in wind energy production tax

Mower County led the state in 2016 in money received through the wind energy production tax, much of which goes to offset property taxes.

Chris Kunkle, regional policy manager for St. Paul-based nonprofit Wind on the Wires, and other wind industry officials presented a ceremonial check to Mower County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Gabrielson at the Mower County Government Center Friday.

“Wind has become important to Mower County, its tax payers and the environment,” Gabrielson said.

Under Minnesota law, wind energy power systems are exempt from state sales tax. However, counties and townships receive money through the production tax, which is based on the energy produced.

The check amount of $2,373,932 represented the 2016 wind energy production tax revenue.

The amount was the largest wind energy production tax payment made in Minnesota and was an increase of 26.5 percent from last year, in part to 2016 being the first year Mower County received production tax funds from the more than 80 towers of the Pleasant Valley Wind Farm in the county.

Chris Kunkle, of Wind on the Wires, presented a
a ceremonial check Friday to Mower County to represent the county’s 2016 wind energy tax revenue.
Michael Stoll/mike.stoll@austindailyherald.com

Grabrielson broke down how the tax revenue would be used.

“$400,000 from the Pleasant Valley system goes strictly for roads and bridges,” he said. “The rest of the money goes strictly to tax relief to keep us from having to raise taxes.”

State Sen. Dan Sparks and Rep. Jeanne Poppe, both DFL-Austin, both attended the ceremony, and Sparks called wind energy a boost for the community.

“That revenue helps our entire community because it helps keep the lid on property taxes, helps pay for road improvements, and supports community projects,” Sparks said. “We need to continue supporting wind energy development in Minnesota.”

Poppe agreed.

“Not every county can benefit [from wind energy] to the extent that Mower County does,” Poppe said. “We’re lucky that we continue to have the wind production tax. That is something that we have always promoted as important to our county, townships and schools. Everybody benefits from it.”

Mower County has received more than $14.8 million in wind energy production tax payments since 2007.

Statewide, wind energy production taxes exceeded $12 million statewide last year, and wind energy accounted for 17 percent of power in Minnesota in 2016.

“Wind energy is a true success story for Minnesota,“ Kunkle said. “As utility prices in wind drop, more counties are embracing it.”

Ross Lexvold, community relations and economic development manager for Xcel Energy, stated that Xcel Energy currently has 19 percent of its power generated by wind power, a number the company hopes to increase to 34 percent by 2021.

The Pleasant Valley System, owned by Xcel Energy, is located in Sergeant, Red Rock and Dexter townships. It is one of the largest wind farms in Mower County with over 80 turbines, plus more in Dodge County.

Mower County has 335 wind turbines, divided among 13 wind energy-producing companies.