get no additional tax revenue from new businesses. Wind turbines, though, are ideally suited for rural land, said Peggy Beltrone, Cascade County commissioner.
Strong, predictable wind patterns that are attractive to wind power providers can be found in many parts of Montana. Cascade is competing for attention by removing some of the preliminary work that providers would typically do before constructing turbines. Providers can attain maps of the area's prevailing winds from the EPA, but the Cascade wind power GIS tool offers additional information the EPA doesn't include.
"We stick the topography layer in so they know if the wind source is sitting on top of a mountain - that wouldn't be as good [a location to build] because you need roads to get up to it," Beltrone said. "We have the land database, so if they're interested, they can know exactly who owns the property. You can't get that on a federal map. We've also plotted the power lines on the map."
The county started the project in 2002, and two years later successfully attracted Horseshoe Bend, the first wind farm facility Cascade County brought in by using the GIS tool. That facility began generating power in 2006. The facility features six 1.5-megawatt turbines, with a combined value of $10 million.
"The taxes off a project like that are considerable. It goes directly to the funds that desperately need money to serve the rural parts of the county. Per turbine, the project brings in about $25,000 per year in tax revenue. A project of six turbines might be $150,000 in taxes, although it's going to decrease every year because of depreciation," Beltrone said. "That's real money, and it's going to schools, libraries, health departments and road departments."
That revenue came from a GIS tool that cost almost no extra money, because the county already had an active GIS team in place.
The Horseshoe Bend facility is locally owned, but most wind providers will lease land from farmers for the turbines, said Beltrone. That will bring extra income to landowners.
"The large industrial-size wind projects are owned by multinational corporations that lease the land. A farmer who puts a turbine on his property might have a lease that would pay between $3,500 and $4,500 per year, per machine," Beltrone said.
Four other wind power companies are exploring Cascade County as a potential site, she said, and they were attracted to Cascade through the GIS tool. Beltrone said a private Cascade County citizen even used the GIS tool to build a wind turbine to produce his own onsite generation.
The project also made Beltrone a national player in the wind energy industry. She now holds a seat on the DOE's Wind Powering America Committee, which promotes wind energy nationwide.
"Now I'm really at a point where I can talk about Cascade County because I'm at national meetings and making speeches on behalf of what the federal government's been doing," Beltrone said.
The Telework Option
Many vendors pitch telework products as a way for governments to attract and retain a skilled IT work force. Telework also offers green benefits - fewer polluting cars in the fleet and fewer cubicles in the office mean less consumption.
Virginia already utilizes telework for IT workers. Roughly 40 percent of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency's (VITA) work force telecommutes at least one day per week, said Aneesh Chopra, VITA's secretary of technology.
"It's a priority for our governor, and the security issues can be addressed if you pay for the appropriate security standards and you have the right tools in place," Chopra said.
He said adjusting management styles to accommodate telework is more challenging than solving security issues. Chopra contends agency managers must learn to manage based on workers' production rather