Addressing Supervisor Curt Hilmer’s comments regarding renewable energy

Ben Metcalf.

As the Vice President of Development for TED Renewables, the company behind the early-stage solar project proposed in Tama County, I would like to clarify the factual inaccuracies and speak to the overall nature of comments from Supervisor Curt Hilmer published in the North Tama Telegraph on May 10, 2024. The specific interview question and Supervisor Hilmer’s comments are below:

North Tama Telegraph: “The development of utility scale wind/solar energy projects in Tama County continues to be a divisive issue. What is your position and why regarding A) a possible wind and/or solar energy moratorium – temporary or otherwise, and B) property rights as it relates to utility scale wind and solar energy projects?”

Curt Hilmer: “My position, no industrial wind and solar. I do like to see them used to power individual homesteads! Landowner’s rights need to take a backseat to the leftist agenda. People need to realize these things are 100% subsidized by the taxpayer! We are making greedy people richer from the top to the bottom!”

This comment prompted me to reflect on a quote from the Cato Institute: “America’s Founders understood clearly that private property is the foundation of not only prosperity but of freedom itself.” As a veteran having served in Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and again in 2016-17 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve combating the ISIS terrorist group, I answered the call to protect our freedoms. Asserting that landowner rights should be subordinated is fundamentally opposed to the values our nation was built upon.

Regarding the claim that renewable energy is part of a “leftist agenda” fully subsidized by taxpayers, I would like to clarify a few points. Nearly all forms of energy in the United States receive some form of tax incentive, whether through tax credits like wind and solar or favorable tax treatments like Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) used in the oil and gas industry, which allow corporations to avoid all federal income tax at the corporate level indefinitely.

We provide tax incentives to energy industries because it aligns with our national economic and security interests by ensuring low energy prices. These incentives support private investments, acknowledging that private enterprises are better at investing their money than the federal government is.

The original sponsor of the Wind Production Tax Credit was Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in 1992. The original sponsors of the Solar Investment Tax Credit were Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in 2005. I am in good company with these supporters of renewable energy – two veterans (Grassley and Bingaman) and two fiscal conservatives (Grassley and Domenici).

Personally, I was disheartened to be labeled as greedy. Yes, if our project succeeds, it will generate revenue for my company, the landowner, the county tax rolls, and local businesses during construction. The hundreds of thousands of new annual county revenue from our project would help make possible the very road improvements that Mr. Hilmer highlighted as his priority earlier in the interview. This project is funded by private capital in our market economy. Profitability is essential for businesses to survive and for people to keep their jobs. Many enterprises in Tama County strive for profitability to support their families and communities. Accusing them of greed is unfair.

Words matter. These published comments are factually inaccurate. While everyone is entitled to their opinion about tax incentives for energy industries and about our project, factual inaccuracies help no one. If anyone has questions or concerns about our project or about solar, please talk to us. We have held an open house and a “Meet the Developer” afternoon, and we will hold more to make ourselves available for civil dialogue. We will strive to conduct ourselves with humility, kindness, and professionalism. We do not have to agree, but we can use language that strengthens us instead of driving us apart.

I invite everyone to engage with us directly. Together, we can ensure that any development in Tama County is done thoughtfully, protecting landowner rights while safeguarding the community.

Ben Metcalf is the Vice President of Development for TED Renewables.