This Monday, commissioners on the Matagorda County Commissioners Court will consider subsidizing Peyton Creek Wind Farm. The Court should consider the cost to residents and the benefit they will receive in return. Experience from those already living in the shadow of wind turbines indicates that the costs usually outweigh the benefits.
Chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code—the section authorizing the County to provide this abatement—was enacted to bring jobs to Texas. This chapter works in concert with school district-administered abatements to provide a hefty incentive for businesses looking, potentially, to build here. The logic follows that taxpayers incentivize development via their local governments, the development brings jobs, and taxpayers benefit with employment opportunities and increased tax revenue.
Peyton Creek Wind Farm, LLC, has filed for taxable property value limitations under Texas Tax Code Chapter 313, the “Economic Development Act,” with Bay City ISD and Van Vleck ISD. Both agreements abate the property’s taxable value to less than a third of its market value for the terms of their agreement. Both agreements exempt Peyton Wind from the already-low standard of creating 10 jobs in rural areas, as suggested by the statute. Instead, the agreements require Peyton Creek Wind to bring only two jobs. This is a clear sign that the economic “benefit” of further subsidizing Peyton Wind is abysmal.
Unlike the school districts which have already negotiated handsome incentive packages with EC&R Development, LLC, Matagorda will not receive reimbursement from the state for its lost revenue. Unlike the relocation of a corporate headquarters that would bring many jobs and facilitate commerce within and beyond the local economy, it is doubtful that the few jobs needed for this farm would have any substantial impact on local tax revenues—especially in any way that would mitigate the foregone revenue from abating the taxes Peyton Creek Wind Farm would otherwise have paid.
Bad economic prospects aside, the Court should also consider the lived experiences citizens will face with the encroachment of wind development. Citizens in places like Comanche County, already littered with turbines, report sleepless nights, anxiety, higher stress levels, and other negative symptoms since their wind farm came to town.
The situation gets even worse when considering the harm to the electric grid as greater proportions of energy come from volatile sources like wind. Subsidized renewable energy development is driving out baseload producers and jeopardizing the reliability of the entire grid. When the wind doesn’t blow, dispatchable resources have to be ready to make up the difference—without the immense subsidies offered to wind.
E.ON Climate and Renewables—the Canadian parent company benefiting from the proposed abatements—doesn’t need the abatements. Passing another incentive would put a foreign company’s interests above the interests of the local taxpayer and citizen. Investment is a good thing, but not at the expense of those who have to live with and subsidize these projects.