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Mower ranks first in wind tax revenue

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Mower County ranked first in state wind energy production tax revenue in 2016. Wind industry representatives on Friday presented a $2,373,932 check to county officials.
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AUSTIN — Mower County continues to outpace state competitors in wind energy generation.

Mower County ranked first in state wind energy production tax revenue in 2016. During a press conference Friday, wind industry representatives presented a $2,373,932 check to county officials for the generated tax revenue. The money will go toward funding local roads and bridges and keeping taxes down for residents. Energy representatives and state officials attended the conference, touting the benefits wind energy brings to the state's economy.

The payment to Mower County was the largest to any county in Minnesota, and was a 26.5 percent increase from last year's payment.

"Wind has become very, very important to Mower County, its taxpayers and our environment." said Mower County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Gabrielson.

Gabrielson said $400,000 of the tax revenue will go toward funding local roads and bridges, while the rest of the roughly $2.3 million will go toward tax relief for residents.

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Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, said the local wind industry has fueled area jobs and tax relief.

David Easler, Vestas senior operations manager, said more than 30 jobs are created over each wind turbine's lifespan.

"The wind industry supports more than 100,000 workers across the United States," Easler said. "That includes thousands of employees in Minnesota."

The wind industry also has a hiring rate of veterans above the national average, said Justin Van Beusekom, senior operations manager for EDP Renewables North America and a military veteran.

Wind energy has been financially beneficial for Minnesota this year — with revenue from the wind energy production tax topping $12 million. Minnesota has roughly 3,500 megawatts of installed wind capacity, generating nearly 18 percent of the state's electricity.

And wind will continue its upward trajectory as prices drop, said Chris Kunkle, regional policy manager for Wind on the Wires.

"As the price of wind continues to fall, you're seeing utilities throughout Minnesota really embracing this," he said.

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