Struggling schools may find the remedy to their financial woes in a line from a song: “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind” — as the wind is a new source of huge revenue for several schools in Ohio. This month, Iberdrola Renewables handed $2.7 million to communities in the Buckeye state. The cash stood as their first “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) for the Blue Creek Wind Farm. The 304 MW facility not only generates a great deal of electricity, but also creates thousands of dollars in extra cash for classrooms.
The $600 million Blue Creek Wind Farm was Ohio’s largest private investment when it began construction back in 2011. The turbines sit across two counties and six townships in Northwest Ohio, and must pay for the privilege. Last Friday, Iberdrola Renewables gave out $2.7 million to Van Wert and Paulding counties.
While the development of renewables within Ohio saw resistance from state senators last year, many are beginning to appreciate what the extra tax money means for their constituents. In Van Wert county, where Blue Creek houses 37 turbines, Iberdrola stands as the area’s largest taxpayer and generates as much revenue as the top 11 contributors of 2012 combined. Much of the money will be going to local school districts. Six townships will see an average of $1,400 of tax revenue per each of the Farm’s 115 turbines. Crestview Schools alone will receive $850,000 a year in exchange for the 81 turbines within its borders.
“This is my 40th year in education and I don’t think I have ever seen a source of revenue like this offer itself to a school district like this,” Crestview Superintendent Mike Estes said. He added, “It’s really a windfall for us.”
The Blue Creek Wind Farm is capable of powering 76,000 homes, and according to Iberdrola, has been responsible for creating 500 new jobs and $25 million in local spending. The company has also begun to make lease payments to landowners to the tune of $2 million and breathing new life into the state. Money may not grow on trees, but it just might be riding on the wind.