Company plans to break ground on wind-energy parks soon
By: Suzanne Moore
PLATTSBURGH – Noble Environmental hasn’t set the date, but ground-breaking on its three wind-energy parks comes ever closer.
“We have equipment available locally,” said Project Manager Mark Lyons. “When we get the go-ahead, it will be close at hand.”
Building permits from the towns of Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg are ready to go, pending a few formalities.
“Little things,” said Altona Town Supervisor Larry Ross, naming insurance certificates and road-restoration bonds.
“We should be done soon,” Lyons said.
Noble expected word shortly from the Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that its applications for wetlands permits are complete.
“They have everything they’ve requested,” said Sandy Sayyeau, Noble’s environmental director.
Also needed is a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Public Service Commission.
“We believe we’re on the agenda for the next meeting,” Sayyeau said. “Those are the main things we’re waiting for.”
Altona, Clinton and Ellenburg wind parks each cover about 4,000 acres; about an acre affects wetlands, Lyons said.
It’s Noble’s expectation that work can begin in non-wetlands areas before DEC and Army Corps permits are issued.
“They have the ultimate say about it,” Lyons said. “But there’s plenty of work we can do that doesn’t involve wetlands.”
Approval for the projects has already come from the Clinton County Industrial Development Agency, which, following a closing with Noble in a month or so, will become the owner of the project.
According to IDA Executive Director Adore Flynn Kurtz, Noble needn’t wait for the closing before starting work. However, “if they build the project and don’t close with the IDA, they don’t get the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.”
The IDA established payment-in-lieu-of-tax and capacity-royalty amounts in July following months of negotiations among the involved taxing jurisdictions.
More recently, Noble and the three towns hammered out host community agreements that secured annual revenue for each of $3,000 per megawatt of permitted wind turbines and also one-time additional payments of $1,000 per tower.
The latter comes in lieu of special projects Noble was willing to undertake for each of those towns.
For Altona, that means $68,000.
“We were talking salt sheds, ball fields, sidewalks,” Ross said of projects bandied about during negotiations. “Instead of that, we decided to take a one-time payment.”
That way, the town can take its time about deciding where to spend the money.
Altogether, Altona will take in $558,800 for 2006-07.
“I don’t dare put all that toward taxes,” Ross said. “It wouldn’t be fiscally responsible.”
Were the wind-farm bonanza to disappear down the road, he said, and taxpayers suddenly had to pay full property tax again, “people could end up losing their houses,” he said.
IDA involvement offers some guarantees for the taxing jurisdictions, all of which tread the ground of the wind-energy world for the first time.
First mortgage will be that of the PILOT payments, capacity-royalty agreements and – though the IDA had no other part in specific dealings between Noble
and the towns – the host-community agreements.
“We included the host-community agreements in that (mortgage) so that we could make it as bulletproof as we could in favor of the taxing jurisdictions,” Kurtz said.
Should Noble default on its mortgages, she added, “the bank doesn’t get paid first.”
The towns, school districts and county do.
Ellenburg Town Supervisor James McNeil said the majority of revenues from the wind projects in his community will offset the budget, though some funds will be kept for projects yet to be identified.
Once the money starts to roll in, he expects tensions over the siting of wind turbines in Ellenburg will begin to ease.
The town anticipates receipt of $443,400 initially.
“This,” McNeil said, “is what we’ve worked for.”
The Town of Clinton will take in about $596,500 in host-community and special-projects funds and PILOT payments by Jan. 1, 2007. Clinton County and the school districts of Chateaugay Central and Northern Adirondack don’t get money as hosts or for special projects but will share in PILOT payments, as well.
Altona will establish a special fund with wind revenues, said Ross, as hedge against possible tax increases in the future and for projects town government has long wanted to see happen.
“We want to build a new town shed,” Ross dreamed a bit. “Eventually, I’d like to have a new hall.
“I’d like to put a swimming pool (at Feinberg Park) to get away from that river.
“There’s all kinds of stuff we haven’t had the money for.”
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