Presenters for Empire State Wind Energy, LLC spoke about the benefits of windpower to nearly a full house at the Westfield Academy and Central School auditorium Wednesday evening.
“The philosophy is to develop wind projects with 100-percent profit taking,” said Keith Pitman, CEO for Empire State Wind Energy, LLC.
Pitman was accompanied by Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.
According to presenters the goal is to create a “win-win” situation for all involved. Pitman said he began researching the level of aggressiveness by companies to build as quickly as possible saying, “If you do the financial work the answer is obvious.”
“We are not here to advocate that you do this but if you decide to build, we want to help you do it,” Pitman said.
Although the limited liability corporation is brand new, it seeks to develop acceptable projects across New York state that involve active community participation.
Developers provided a power point presentation regarding the questions that communities may have in reference to such development.
Pitman encouraged those present to voice their concerns and participate in the process if the choice was made to develop a wind project. His presentation addressed the financial gains for communities and developers.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to see some of of the profit end up here. We think there is a better way,” Pitman said.
According to Pitman, the developer is looking for what is acceptable in the community. “It is a local decision. Each community has its own characteristics and goals. It is your wind and your community. Control and ownership can be shared,” he said.
The estimated cost for a single two-megawatt turbine is $3,000,000 with an annual estimated revenue of $575,000, which includes $375,000 from sales, $100,000 from Production Tax Credit, and $100,000 in state incentives. The production tax credit is an incentive to promote this form of power generation.
Estimated costs incurred with maintenance and mortgage payment totaled a $400,000 payment (including a 6-percent interest rate.) This resulted in a cash flow of $125,000 for one turbine.
“The projects generally consist of more than one unit and you need to determine the acceptable amount of an annual community stipend,” Pitman said.
After 10 years of mortgage the cash flow doubles to $300,000 per unit.
“Most people believe the energy market will continue to grow,” Pitman said.
The developer gains included repayment of the capital investment, a management fee negotiated with community entities and benefits of depreciation.
Pitman cites several locations throughout New York and encouraged communities to visit those sites and to “think, consider and rethink” in an effort to form opinions. He added that the objective is to do what is most beneficial because it is not a race to complete such projects.
“This is an important issue to upstate New York. It is going to happen. It is great to see such community interest in learning about this,” Pitman said. “There is nothing like a locally controlled infrastructure. It is attractive and exciting to be a part of something like this.I am passionate about this subject.”
The corporation goal is to have no preconceived ideas or plans and to hash out the long-term benefits to the communities involved.
Following the presentation, the panel took questions from the public regarding the tax incentives, financial gain and previously addressed community concerns.
Claire Quadri and members of the Chautauqua Concerned Citizens for Responsible Windpower and Len DeFrancisco of the Ripley Hawk Watch were in attendance.
When questioned regarding the past issues of the migratory flyway and environmental reviews already in print, Pitman said he was not aware of any previous proposals nor had he seen any of the previous project information initially completed by Chautauqua Wind Power, LLC.
Pitman said his company is brand new with no previous history of projects developed and is approaching the proposals with an open mind and a new approach.
Golisano also answered several questions posed by those in attendance.
DeFrancisco questioned Golisano’s change of heart, saying Golisano has made a “100-degree turn around from previous interactions” regarding the last developer.
Golisano’s response was “This is a wonderful opportunity. It is going to happen anyway whether we want it or not. If all we did was worry about what was going to happen to us then nothing would ever get done.”
Other issues briefly addressed included maintenance, locations, dismantling if the project fails, overall responsibilities which Pitman said would need to be addressed in early negotiations, presentations and discussions.
“I don’t want another Niagara Falls situation where communities around it don’t benefit,” Golisano said.
For developers, the bottom line was “We can’t build if there are too many environmental issues,” Pitman said.
At this point developers are saying that nothing has been decided or developed and the plan is to meet with municipalities to determine feasibility before anything is ever done, if at all.
The event was sponsored by Chautauqua County, Empire State Wind Power, LLC., the towns of Ripley and Westfield, and the Westfield Academy and Central School.
By Julie Spears, Observer Staff Writer
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