By Chris Brown, guest columnist
In his recent column, Kip Crofts asserts that wind and solar energy in Wyoming need to pay more taxes.
Wyoming has always had a strong belief in promoting entrepreneurship, welcoming business investment and protecting the rights of our ranchers and farmers. Because of that, it’s hard to understand why Mr. Crofts would encourage a path of more taxes. In Wyoming, we should be encouraging new ways to bring in revenue, we should promote business growth, and we should respect our ranchers’ and farmers’ rights to utilize their land as they best see fit.
The fact is wind energy developments in Wyoming already pay significant taxes – contributing to our state and local economies. Wyoming is the only state in the country where wind pays a tax on the electricity generated, a property tax, and a sales tax.
Under these three taxes, wind development has brought in significant revenue to our communities. In 2020, statewide sales tax collections fell by $7.1 million, but wind investments generated a surplus of $3 million for Carbon County, $1.4 million for Laramie County, and $9.2 million for Converse County.
Wind projects currently being pursued in Wyoming will bring in an additional $10 billion in investments. If realized, that translates into $739 million in property taxes, $410 million in sales and use taxes, and $452 million in generation taxes – all of which support schools, first-responders, infrastructure, and other critical services that we all rely on.
Finally, the Consensus Estimate Revenue Group (CREG) July report projected a loss of 7.3% in statewide sales and use tax collection. Instead, thanks to wind contributions and increased consumer spending, Wyoming saw an unexpected increase of 7.7% — $34.5 million for our state.
Wind is already working for Wyoming and bringing in essential economic diversification at a critically important time. If we push wind even farther – taxing it more – projected investments will not be economically feasible and will simply be realized in our surrounding states. We already know it costs less to develop wind energy in New Mexico, Montana, and Colorado than in Wyoming, according to a study conducted by the University of Wyoming.
And while solar isn’t yet a booming industry here, let’s not give the industry any reason to think we aren’t just as excited about the opportunities it would provide.
More tax on wind in Wyoming will not equate to more revenue for our state.
We don’t control demand for electricity outside of our state border, but we do control whether we capitalize on investment and remain an energy leader.
The wind doesn’t discriminate where it blows… and we shouldn’t discriminate against this essential revenue coming our way.
Chris Brown is the Executive Director, Powering Up Wyoming firstname.lastname@example.org