An innovative wind energy project located in the sparsely-populated county of Sherman, Oregon, is helping the county to flourish in an economy in transition.Sherman, population 1,735, has earned more than $17.5 million over the past nine years from the special taxes, fees and assessments levied on the power generated by the project, which is run by Portland General Electric, according to The New York Times.
The money has supplemented local farmers’ incomes as the margins in their businesses shrink, kept the local economy afloat, and provided new careers for electrical engineers who train to become renewable energy technicians, local residents and officials tell the Times.
The farmers charge the utility for leasing their land, and the county residents receive annual $590 checks from the county’s taxes on the utility for building wind turbines that mar the landscape.
A local elected official, Judge Gary Thompson of Sherman County Court, said that the county modeled its tax scheme on Alaska’s 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
“It’s modeled after a lot of Alaska compensation,” he told the Times. “There are a lot of people who live in the county who are not necessarily going to benefit from the renewable energy, and we felt we needed to share it with all county residents.”
Unlike other counties that have had to cut back, Sherman has used the windfall to pay for a new teacher for gifted students, more equipment at its schools, and to pay for a new library, two new city halls, sewers and a bridge.
The Obama administration has been a big promoter of projects such as these as a way for local economies to renew themselves economically, and a way to generate cleaner energy. The development of this particular project predated this administration, however.